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Sophia Lucas was standing on her front porch when the coyote attacked.

Screenshot/KCPQ

As KCPQ reports, the 3-year-old girl from Snoqualmie, Washington, was helping her father put up Christmas lights last week when a coyote wandered down their street. Douglas Lucas, Sophia's father, was standing on a ladder just a few feet away from his daughter when the animal pounced.

The force of the coyote's attack knocked Sophia down. The coyote clawed at the preschooler, shredding her coat and leaving scratches on her shoulder.

Douglas told KIRO he was surprised to see a coyote come so close to the house:

“I immediately reacted. Jumped off the ladder. The animal ran off and I chased it away.”

He added:

“When you see your child being attacked by a wild animal, it's hard to fathom what is happening. It feels terrible.”

Sophia ended up with just a few scratches — at the cost of her favorite winter coat. However, her family believes that the puffy, purple coat protected the little girl from a more serious injury. Her grandmother told KCPQ:

“It was traumatic, it’s a scary situation.”

The town of Snoqualmie often gets visits from local wildlife, but the recent rise in coyote sightings has local residents concerned. Local police say that someone might be feeding the coyotes, making the wild animals less afraid of approaching humans.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, coyote attacks on humans are rare, but they are not unheard of. Smithsonian.com reports that coyotes have been seen across the U.S., even in urban centers such as New York, Washington, and Chicago. In the 30 years leading up to 2006, there were approximately 160 coyote attacks on humans, mostly in the Los Angeles area.

It is possible to minimize the likelihood of a coyote encounter by eliminating things that can attract animals. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation recommends ensuring garbage containers are closed and inaccessible, bringing in any food or water (including pet dishes), and not allowing pets to roam free. Clearing shrubs and vegetation and installing fencing can also help.

Do not allow coyotes to approach pets or people. If you see a coyote, act aggressively. Maximize your height and size, and make loud noises or wave your arms to try to chase the coyote away. Then, report the sighting to local authorities.

After scaring away the coyote that attacked Sophia, her father is grateful she only suffered a few minor injuries in the encounter. He told KIRO:

“It could have been much worse. It could have really harmed her or worse, killed her.”

A shaken Sophia agreed. She told KCPQ the coyote bit her, adding, “Daddy saved my life.”