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Taylor Mitchell
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Coyote Attack on Singer an Unlikely and Disturbing Scenario

November 01, 2009 02:00 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
A young musician was attacked and killed by coyotes in the woods of eastern Canada, raising questions about coyotes’ tendencies toward humans and highlighting other unlikely animal attacks.

Coyotes Usually Shy

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Taylor Mitchell was a 19-year-old folk singer and songwriter from Toronto. She was hiking alone in between East Coast tour gigs in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, on a trail popular among hikers. Others on the trail heard Mitchell’s screams and dialed 911, according to Rob Gillies for The Huffington Post. The young woman was in critical condition when medics arrived, and died Wednesday morning at a hospital in Halifax.
Coyotes don’t usually attack humans and are typically shy, wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft told Gillies. He also suggested that the coyotes could’ve seen Mitchell as prey, leading them to attack. “We shouldn't assume that coyotes are suddenly going to become the big bad wolf,” he told Gillies.

Only one of the two coyotes involved in the attack was captured, after being shot at the scene. An “animal autopsy, known as a necropsy” will be conducted to determine whether the coyote had rabies or “had eaten human food,” which “could have led the coyotes to lose their fear of people,” according to The Chronicle Herald. Chip Bird of Parks Canada told the Herald the case was “unprecedented” in his 30-year-career.

Mitchell a Devoted Environmentalist

Taylor Mitchell’s mother, Emily Mitchell, released a statement that emphasized her daughter’s environmental passions, and said Taylor would not have wanted the coyotes to be killed. “She wouldn’t have wanted their demise, especially as a result of her own,” the statement reads, according to The Chronicle Herald. The statement also describes Taylor “as ‘a seasoned naturalist’ who was experienced at wilderness camping” and had “a deep affinity” for the woods.

The Taylor Mitchell Memorial Fund has been set up on the singer’s Web site.

Background: Coyote attacks

Last summer, Los Angeles saw several instances of coyotes encountering humans, including a man whose foot was bitten by a coyote while he slept. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's policy “is to capture and kill coyotes only if there is an imminent threat to public safety,” and seven were subjected to that fate, the Los Angeles Times reported, according to NBC Los Angeles.

But Madeline Bernstein, the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said that “killing coyotes could have a negative long-term effects,” according to NBC Los Angeles. The potential spike in coyotes’ food supply could result “in a future increase of the coyote population,” she explained. Due to the fact that coyotes are not able to “adapt quickly enough to their new surroundings,” and usually die if trapped and re-released, the Los Angeles SPCA “encourages positive cohabitation between humans and wildlife” instead.

Related Topic: Unexpected animal attacks

The Animal Planet Web site lists and describes surprising animal attacks that happened to unsuspecting victims, such as attacks by moose, kangaroos and eagles. The incidents occurred around the world and in a variety of situations, including while victims were snorkeling, paragliding, surfing and simply walking through the woods.

In separate incidences in 2008, a woman in Arizona and a young boy in South Carolina were attacked by rabid foxes. When wild animals act tamely, and tame animals act wildly, officials say there is a good chance the animal is rabid.

Other cases of animal attacks seem to have occurred as a result of human infringement on territory. In March 2009, there was an increase in Komodo dragon attacks on fishermen in Komodo National Park. Villagers blamed the killings on conservation authorities’ prevention of traditional sacrifices of other animals to the dragons. Park authorities, however, said Indonesia’s population growth is the true culprit, and is pushing villages further inland, closer to the dragons’ habitat. 

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