A Brandeis University student was injured on the school’s Waltham campus early Wednesday in an encounter with an animal believed to be a coyote, university and public safety officials said.
The female student, whose name was not released, was treated for scratches and bruises, said Deanna Gualtieri, Waltham’s animal control officer.
Based on a description given by the student, officials believe the animal was probably a coyote, though by the time Waltham and Brandeis police arrived at the scene, it had run off. The incident may have been caused by someone previously feeding the animal, Gualtieri said.
The encounter occurred around 2 a.m. near Ziv Quad, an area of residence halls, said university spokesman Bill Burger.
Immediately afterward, the student returned to her dormitory, where she spoke with the school’s public safety officers and police.
It was the first time such an encounter has been reported at Brandeis, Burger said. The school sent out a public advisory e-mail at 9 p.m. Wednesday, after the student was treated earlier in the day at the school’s health center.
The e-mail urged community members to contact university police to report any sighting of animals that might present a concern and encouraged students to use the Brandeis escort service for transportation assistance at any time.
Burger said the school would not hold coyote safety meetings or change its policy concerning potentially threatening wildlife on campus.
“There’s no reason to think that it will happen again, but we do want people to be on the lookout,” he said.
Coyotes have recently been seen around Waltham, Newton, and Belmont.
When a coyote encounters a human, nine times out of 10 it will run away, Gualtieri said.
She said that it seemed as if someone had been feeding the animal involved in the incident and that it was probably trying to initiate feeding when it approached the student.
“If it wanted to attack, there would have been serious damage,” Gualtieri said.
There have been only five reports of coyotes biting humans in Massachusetts in the 50 or 60 years the animal has been in the state, said Laura Conlee, a biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
While it is normal for coyotes to be out in the open during the day or night, Conlee said the type of behavior the animal exhibited at Brandeis indicates that someone had been feeding it.
“The number one thing we tell people is not to feed the animals,” she said. “When people feed wildlife, those animals develop behaviors that aren’t tolerated, and so they’re euthanized” when those behaviors become unacceptable, she said.
Conlee said the best thing to do when encountering a coyote or other wild animal is to scare it off by making noise.
By clapping your hands, yelling, and slowly backing away from the area, you are showing the animal that it needs to maintain its fear of people, she said. Just walking or running away can initiate a follow response, Conlee said.