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FORT EDWARD — The coyote that was shot and killed near the Five Combines park on Thursday has tested positive for rabies, and anyone who may have had contact with it was urged to contact Washington County Department of Public Health.

The canine is believed to have been responsible for a Wednesday morning attack on a woman at the park, and for accosting other park users a day earlier. Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said test results were confirmed early Friday.

The Gansevoort woman who was bitten, Rita Sweenor, was hospitalized with severe bites to her legs, arms and face, and is undergoing preventive rabies treatment.

Sweenor is an amateur nature photographer who frequents the park, which is popular with bird watchers.

An update was posted on her Facebook page early Friday as to her recovery.

“Thank you all for your prayers and positive thoughts. Still at Albany Med. Coyote was positive for rabies. (I am) on rabies shots. Will be a long recovery. Pretty beat up. May go home soon to recover. The trauma team here is excellent. Thanks again,” her Facebook page reads.

Rabies is a deadly disease if left untreated. The county Public Health Department can be reached at 518-746-2400.

The park along the Feeder Canal was closed for about 24 hours Wednesday into Thursday as police searched for the animal, and a state conservation officer shot it between the Five Combines in Kingsbury and the village of Fort Edward early Thursday afternoon.

The Feeder Canal trail and Five Combines park will remain closed until Tuesday as police work to make sure there are no other rabid animals or aggressive coyotes in that area.

“Just out of an abundance of caution, we thought it was the right thing to do. We’d hate to open it up and then have to close it again,” Washington County Jeff Murphy said.

Some residents of the area are wondering whether there is a bigger rabies problem among coyotes in central Washington County.

Desiree Santiago said a coyote that appeared to be rabid, foaming at the mouth and wandering through yards on Route 197 during the daytime, was shot and killed by a resident of the area in early August. That is just a couple of miles southeast from the Feeder Canal, and coyotes routinely travel significant distances to feed.

She said police were called to pick up its remains for testing afterward, but it did not appear the body was retrieved.

A call to the state Department of Environmental Conservation about the issue was not immediately returned Friday.

A veterinarian from California who tracks coyote attacks across the country said they have been on the rise in parts of the nation in recent years.

“Coyotes are not harmless fuzzy pets that kill rodents, they are dangerous predators,” said Dr. Carol Meschter.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has information to prevent coyote conflicts at



Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on

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