A man walking through his front yard Monday near Payson Elementary School was rushed by a rabid coyote. He shot and killed the animal a few moments later.
North Payson resident Bill Burge said he had just walked into his yard off Airline Drive when a noise stopped him short.
"I thought it was the neighbor's dog," he said. But it was a small coyote heading straight for him by his front porch.
"I grabbed a bike wheel and kind of shoved him back," he said. "He had a droopy jaw and was acting really strange."
Burge said he ran into his house to grab his shotgun, and his dogs ran out and his Boxer attacked the coyote.
"At that point, I had to run around the house so I could get a good shot at the coyote without hitting any other buildings or my own dogs," he said.
He said he got the right angle, took the shot and killed the animal.
Earlier that day, the coyote had wandered through the Payson Fire Department's engine bay on Rancho Road.
"Albert Hunt and the guys were out front working, and (firefighter) Jimmy Rasmussen turns to me and says, 'Hey Toby, there's a coyote," firefighter Toby Waugh said. "It walked right through our bay, and we watched it walk down the street. It was an eye-opener."
The coyote's slack jaw, aggressive behavior and daytime wandering indicated that the animal was rabid.
Burge called Gila County Animal Control.
"Ty (Goodman) came and took him off," he said.
While transporting the animal to Phoenix to have it tested for rabies, the animal control officer was exposed to the virus.
"The gloves I was wearing were defective," Goodman said. "When I took them off, my hands were soaked in blood and saliva."
The animal was tested at the state laboratory in Phoenix, and the lab confirmed Tuesday what Goodman already knew the coyote was carrying the rabies virus.
"I've already been vaccinated," he said, "but I have to have a couple of booster shots. This just goes to show how easy it is to be exposed to the virus."
Goodman said nobody else was exposed, and that although the Burge dogs had been vaccinated against the virus, they also received booster shots and will be quarantined for 45 days.