Coyote attack survivor speaks

Rita Sweenor is recovering after being attacked by a rabid coyote on Wednesday.

A Saratoga County woman, who was attacked by a coyote, shared her story of survival from her hospital room on Friday.

“I don't actually know how I survived. I came close to dying, I really did, but I have a beautiful family and husband. I’ve got to live for them,” said Rita Sweenor.

Sweenor is recovering at Albany Medical Center after she was attacked by a coyote on Wednesday. She was on the bike path in the area of the Five Combines in Washington County, taking pictures of birds when the attack happened. Sweenor said she visited that path often.

“Something grabbed my leg. I turned around and a coyote had my leg in his mouth. I was in shock,” she said. “The minute he latched on to my leg I knew, I just knew, he was rabid.”

Sweenor said she tried to call 911, but she couldn’t hit send because the coyote kept attacking her. She fought back. She said she hit the coyote with her camera, pinned it down and tried to throw the animal into the nearby water several times.

“He just kept coming, he attacked me 10 or 15 times,” said Sweenor. “I just had to stand and fight. I had no choice, I just had to stand and fight.”

The third time she tried to throw the animal into the water, Sweenor said she fell in also. She finally lost the coyote as it climbed back up onto the land.

“I walked across the feeder canal in all that muck and stuff. I had to swim part of it because it was really deep and stuff, and hoped he didn't follow me. If he followed me I’d be dead, I was running out of steam,” she said.

Sweenor climbed up a hill and through a field to the closest home for help. As she moved, she said she held pressure on her arm to try and stop the bleeding. Sweenor said she was a nurse for 40 years, so she knew she had to try and slow the blood loss. She said she was anxious to get to the homeowners to tell them what happened, so police would close the path and keep others safe.

“I was just afraid he would kill somebody. I knew there was a lot of people on that path, I was just afraid. I don't even know how I survived. I nearly died, he nearly killed me,” said Sweenor.

Sweenor is recovering from several injuries to her arms, her legs, face and scalp. Many of those injuries are deep. She said she is grateful to all the first responders, doctors and nurses who have cared for her.

“I didn't know I had that strength but I think adrenaline and stuff kicks in and you want to survive and you want to live and it just comes. I didn't know I was that strong,” said Sweenor.

On Friday, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said that the coyote that was found by an Environmental Conservation Officer on Thursday tested positive for rabies. That coyote is believed to be the one that attacked Sweenor. She said she now has to go through a series of rabies vaccines.

Washington County officials said that anyone with who had contact with a coyote in that area should call the Washington County Department of Health at 518-746-2400.

The Sheriff’s Office said that the bike path will remain closed until Tuesday.

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