On October 27, 2009, two coyotes attacked and killed a promising young musician as she was hiking alone in a national park in eastern Canada.
The victim was identified as Taylor Mitchell, 19, a singer-songwriter from Toronto who was touring to promote 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 America to the United States and Canada.
Wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft said coyote attacks are extremely rare because the animals are usually shy.
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 be repeated,” Bancroft said. “We shouldn’t assume that coyotes are suddenly going to become the big bad wolf.”
(I had been in touch with Bob Bancroft in the past, regarding the “mysterious kangaroo sightings” of October 1986, in Nova Scotia, and other cryptid reports for the area. Biologist Bancroft had openmindedly investigated and found kangaroo tracks after returning to the location of the sightings. Bancroft also has spent three decades researching cougars on the Canadian island, and thinks they are there.)
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.
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 an up-and-coming 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.”