Haseena Habibi and her sister rushed out of their cousin's apartment when they heard a scream.

They saw a man trying to pull his young son away from a coyote at Springbrook Park, next to the apartment complex. The coyote let go of the boy, but stayed at the sand playground, said Habibi, who then spotted the man's other son, a toddler, walking toward the coyote.

Habibi ran to the coyote, yelled, took off her shoe and threw it at the coyote. When that didn't work, she began throwing sand at the animal, which was about the size of a large dog, Habibi said. The coyote finally took off after her husband arrived and chased it away.

"I wasn't expecting coyotes to attack kids," said Waleed Qazi, Habibi's husband. "I thought they were after foxes and rabbits and they don't bother with humans."

What happened Sunday evening in this quiet suburban neighborhood wasn't an isolated incident. Authorities say Irvine is "a hot spot" for coyotes and three cases of coyotes biting humans have been reported in the Woodbridge neighborhood over the past few months.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Thursday held a press conference at Springbrook Park to discuss Sunday's attack, which was first reported by the Register.

The 6-year-old was playing at the park around 7 p.m. when a coyote attacked him, Fish and Wildlife Capt. Rebecca Hartman said. The father rushed to help from the other side of the playground, and the coyote let go of the boy after dragging him about three feet, she said.

The boy, who suffered minor cuts, scratches and bites on his arm, was taken to hospital by his father and was released that night, Hartman said.

Fish and Wildlife officials set traps in the area and caught one coyote on Tuesday and three more on Wednesday night. The captured coyotes were euthanized because there's no way to hold them, Fish and Wildlife officials said. The department stopped the trapping Thursday morning.

There was little forensic evidence from the child's clothing, so it could be difficult to determine if one of the captured coyotes is the one that attacked the boy, Hartman said.

"We are never able to say that any location is safe," Hartman said. "We are not sure what other animals are in the area. ... It's up to the community to continue to be vigilant about living with wildlife."

Some people blame rapid housing development in Irvine for increasing encounters between coyotes and humans.

Residents in the Portola Springs neighborhood were put on edge last year when there was a series of coyote attacks on children. Fish and Wildlife was able to trap and euthanize a coyote that was responsible for three of five biting incidents.

"The first responsibility for any government agency is the safety of the public," Hartman said during the conference, standing in front of a coyote warning sign at the park. "So regardless of your feelings on who was here first and whose right it is to be here, the safety of our children will be the most important thing."

Springbrook is a small neighborhood park with a sand playground, basketball courts, picnic tables and lawn areas. It is surrounded by houses and apartments and only about 50 feet away from the busy Jeffrey Road.

Hartman said she's not sure where the captured coyotes lived, but they can travel miles and even jump over a 6-foot fence.

"They're very capable of finding places to live," she said. "They can use greenways to get wherever they want."

Yash Gandhi, who lives in the same complex as Habibi and Qazi, said he's seen coyotes roaming in and around the property. His 8- and 5-year-old children play at the park almost every day.

"We're definitely worried," he said. "But we don't want to stop playing at the park. We'll be watchful and make sure that they're safe."

Hartman said she doesn't know if the trapping eliminated all the coyotes in the area, and new ones could always move in.

"If you do happen to see a coyote, be loud, be bold," Hartman said. "We want them to be afraid of us. We don't want to share the area with them. It doesn't work out well for them or us."