Coyotes kill woman on hike in Canadian park
'Very unusual and is not likely to be repeated,' wildlife biologist says
updated 10/28/2009 9:43:18 PM ET
TORONTO — Two coyotes attacked a Canadian woman while she was hiking alone in a national park in eastern Canada, and authorities said she died Wednesday of her injuries.
The victim was identified as Taylor Mitchell, 19, a singer-songwriter from Toronto who was touring in support of her new album on the East Coast.
She was hiking solo on a trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia on Tuesday when the attack occurred. She was airlifted to a Halifax hospital in critical condition and died Wednesday morning, authorities said.
Coyotes, which also are known as prairie wolves, are found from Central American to the United States and Canada.
Wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft said coyote attacks are extremely rare because the animals are usually shy.
‘It's very unusual’
Bancroft, a retired biologist with Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources, said it's possible the coyotes thought Mitchell was a deer or other prey.
"It's very unusual and is not likely to repeated," Bancroft said. "We shouldn't assume that coyotes are suddenly going to become the big bad wolf."
Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokeswoman Brigdit Leger said other hikers heard Mitchell's screams for help on Tuesday and called emergency police dispatchers.
Police who were in the area reached the scene quickly and shot one of the animals, apparently wounding it. But the wounded animal and a companion coyote managed to get away.
Paul Maynard of Emergency Health Services said Mitchell already was in critical condition when paramedics arrived on the scene and had multiple bite wounds over her entire body.
"She was losing a considerable amount of blood from the wounds," he said.
‘So excited about the future’
An official with Parks Canada said they blocked the entrance to the trail where Mitchell was attacked and were trying to find the animals to determine what prompted such an unusual attack.
"There's been some reports of aggressive animals, so it's not unknown," said Helene Robichaud, the park's superintendent. "But we certainly never have had anything so dramatic and tragic."
Mitchell was a folk and country musician who was nominated for a 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award in the Young Performer of the Year category.
"Words can't begin to express the sadness and tragedy of losing such a sweet, compassionate, vibrant, and phenomenally talented young woman," Lisa Weitz, Mitchell's manager, said in an e-mail. "She just turned 19 two months ago, and was so excited about the future."
Apparently this wasn't such a freak accident. Here's the thing.
- Coyotes - like Starlings, English Sparrows, Gray Squirrels, and Pigeons - have found a niche living with human beings. More and more major cities are reporting that coyotes have infiltrated their premises, and live quite comfortably on animals that frequent cities. My sister lives on the edge of the Santa Ana desert, and for years found that she couldn't keep any cats. Coyotes get them. (They do however give something for her Great Danes to hunt.) But they're even in Central Park, so it isn't just people living near the wilderness.
- Apparently we're witnessing evolution right in front of our eyes. Biologists now report that wolves - long a deadly enemy of coyotes - have apparently successfully mated with coyotes enough times that there are now some "super coyotes" roaming in and around our cities. This new strain is bigger, badder, and much more capable of viscous mischief.
If you've never had a big dog, you might not appreciate what it could be like to be attacked by a coyote. If you've never done surgery, you might not appreciate how easily a large canine can kill a human.
I've actually given this a lot of thought, if only as "martial theory." My roommates from college and I used to "play fight" with one of my larger (200 pounds) Danes. He of course loved it.
I also have an EXTREMELY strong Ridgeback who has an annoying habit of giving you flying kisses when you least expect it. And that flying kiss? Just a hair away from being a flying leap to the throat. Interesting... as if his puppy play was preparing him for fighting the way our Sanchin does the same.
I'll talk more later about this. Gotta get ready for work.