An Ashburnham man was attacked and bitten by an unknown canine in his yard Sunday evening after mistaking the animal for his neighbor’s dog, officials said.The victim, a 22-year-old man, was in his yard on Dunn Road around 5:54 p. m. ,when the animal — possibly a coyote or dog — appeared, officials said.“The individual had approached the animal believing that it was his neighbor’s dog, and that’s when the coyote attacked him,” Ashburnham police Detective Robert Siano said.“He was bit several times before it ran into the woods. ”The man was taken to Heywood Hospital in Gardner with bites to his wrist, ankle, and buttocks, and is receiving “post exposure treatment for possible rabies,” the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife said in a statement.While the man believed the animal to be a domesticated dog, officials are not yet sure if it was a dog or a coyote.Officials did not know the man’s condition Monday afternoon. Ashburnham is home to a State Forest and a portion of a State Wildlife Area, making sightings of wild animals like bears, moose, and coyotes fairly routine.But Siano said he had never heard of such an animal attack in town before Sunday, and Ashburnham and MassWildlife officials remained on scene Monday to try to find the animal.“This is pretty unusual for us,” he said. “We are going to be actively looking in the area, patrol officers have been in the area, the Environmental Police are actively investigating.”In its statement, MassWildlife also said such attacks are uncommon, with only seven confirmed incidents since the coyote first appeared in the state in the 1950s.Two of those attacks involved rabid animals, three more involved suspected rabid animals, and “at least one of the other animals had become so used to people, it no longer considered people a threat.”“Attacks by coyotes on people are a rare and unusual event,” MassWildlife said. “Coyote attacks on pets are more common,” with smaller pets viewed as potential meals by coyotes, and larger pets viewed as possible threats.“Coyotes thrive where people live because there is a lot of food available,” the statement said, and MassWildlife advised that people accompany and restrain pets outdoors, and remove food sources like bird food or garbage that may attract coyotes.In a Facebook post Monday, Ashburnham police advised residents to steer clear of wild canines around town while the investigation continues.“Be aware that these animals live in and travel the wooded areas around town. Please watch your pets closely and pass the word to neighbors and school bus students,” police said.“Coyotes vary in size, color and will wander into residential areas looking for food.Unknown dogs, foxes and coyotes should not be approached or fed for any reason. ”“If this animal was a domestic dog, the lesson to impart might be ‘Don’t approach or try to pet a dog that you don’t know,’” Larson said in an e-mail.