Woman Attacked by Rabid Coyote ’10 or 15 Times’ Survives to Share Story

August 22, 2017 Updated: August 22, 2017

A New York woman is recovering after having been attacked by a wild animal that had, according to the prognosis of rabies, lost its mind.

Rita Sweenor is now sharing the story of how she fought off a rabid coyote around the area of Five Combines in Washington County. She said the ordeal nearly killed her. 

“I don’t actually really know how I survived. I came close to dying I really did but I have a beautiful family and husband and stuff, I’ve got to live,” Sweenor told ABC News.

Sweenor’s misadventure started with a trip to take picture of birds along a bike path on Wednesday. 

While stopping to snap a photo of a blue heron, like the one she shared in an earlier Facebook post, she was attacked.

“He latched on to my leg,” Sweenor recounted. “I just knew he was rabid.”

She hit the animal with her camera, pinned it down and tried to throw it in nearby a canal over and over again, but she was fighting a determined attacker, according to CBS.

“He just kept coming, he attacked me 10 or 15 times,” said Sweenor.

Sweenor said she realized she had to stand and fight. The third time the coyote attacked, she tried to throw it into the water, but she also fell in. That is when she finally lost the animal.

“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 told CBS.

She then climbed up a hill and through a field. Having been a nurse for decades, she knew she had to try to slow her bleeding by applying pressure to her arm.

When she got to the nearest home for help, she said she was anxious to warn the home owners what happened so that others could avoid the animal. 

The bike path was closed by local authorities while they hunted down the animal.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said on Aug. 18 that the coyote that was found by an Environmental Conservation Officer the day before tested positive for rabies, according to CBS. They believe it is the same one that attacked Sweenor, who has had to take a series of rabies vaccines since.

“Thank you all for your prayers and positive thoughts. Still at Albany Med. Coyote was positive for rabies.. .. on rabies shots. Will be a long recovery.. Pretty beat up.. May go home soon ion to recover.. The trauma team here is excellent,” she shared on Facebook.

“I was just afraid he would kill somebody, I knew there was a lot of people on that path I was just afraid,” Sweenor told ABC.

She said she is surprised by her own survival. She suffered injuries to her arms, legs, face and scalp. Many of the bites are deep.

She credits her survival instincts—and a healthy rush of adrenaline—for keeping her alive.

Sweenor, who shares the daily weather report on her Facebook feed as a service to friends, shocked friends and family with her ordeal.

Rita Ciatto, her former sister-in-law, says Sweenor “is an amazingly strong courageous woman.”

Sweenor was released from Hospital on Aug. 20, just in time to watch the rare eclipse the next day.