Canadian folk singer dies after coyote attack

taylor2.jpg Toronto-based folk singer Taylor Mitchell died after coyotes pounced on her during a solo hike in Cape Breton national park on Monday. She was hospitalized with injuries from multiple bites, and died in critical care yesterday. Ms. Mitchell was 19 years old. More: LAT, BBC. Artist pages: Facebook, and MySpace.


  1. I’ve read about maybe a half-dozen coyote attacks in a dozen years, and they’ve all been fairly minor.

    Hearing that they had the gumption to attack a human is puzzling. Coyotes usually do everything they can to avoid being seen by humans.

    All together now:

    Don’t feed suburban coyotes. Most of the attacks I read about were on kids by coyotes who’d been fed by humans.

    Don’t make it easy for them to forage by leaving out pet food, or cats, or small dogs.

    If any critter approaches you, make yourself look big, shout, and throw things.

    1. For whatever my experience is worth. I am 59 years old, raised in a big sheep and cattle ranch in central New Mexico. I grew up battling coyotes to save our livelihood, and later harvested pelts, because I do not believe in wasting anything that we have to kill. I have become a believer in maintaining a balance for all life in our environment; everything shoud have the right to co-exist, but man should be able to maintain and secure a healthy ecosystem. Coyotes are so much like us humans, they are survivors; they will rise to any level to survive and secure the survival of their species. I have seen them kill and eat everything from furless new born helpless baby rabbits, to adult cows that were sick or down giving birth. A couple of years ago I was horseback riding and came upon a coyote that angrily followed my horse for some distance. I think If I had been on foot I would have had a man to coyote confrontation. No telling what would have happened.
      Coyotes like all other living species on this earth, including humans, can become a proplem when they over populate. The more of one species the greater the likleihood of a sick mind that is going to behave in an unpredictable manner. Yes, I believe a coyote or a pack of coyotes can behave in an agressive and dangerous manner. Since human beings can reason, it is our duty to control them and protect them, and all other forms of life.

  2. Seriously, this is bizarre. Coyotes eat squirrels and sparrows, and the smarter ones run away from angry raccoons.

    It’s terrible if this is what pseudo-domestication does to them, which I guess is plausible, but I almost wonder if there wasn’t some weird disease at work affecting their normal behavior patterns. Like the man said, as common as they are even in suburbia these days, you’d usually have to work hard to even lay eyes on one.

    1. I’m inclined to agree. National Parks in Nova Scotia don’t seem like the type of place where you’d find coyotes that weren’t afraid of humans.

  3. Sad news about a young talent.

    The attack happened in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Cape Breton, quite far from Toronto.

    #2, I’ve read the coyotes might have been rabid. She may just have come across them in the woods, turned her back on them or started to run, provoking an attack.

  4. There’s about 1500km between the Cape Breton Highlands (where this incident happens) and Toronto. It’s a bit of a stretch to call the Highlands “a local national park” for a Toronto-resident. Mitchell was touring the East Coast at the time.

  5. “local” to what? Local as in Canadian national park? Because she wasn’t anywhere near Toronto when it happened, but in Cape Breton Highlands National Park on an east coast tour.

    That would be like saying a New York City based singer died in a local national park when they were killed in Shawnee National Forest, Illinois.

    I also like how the LA Times and BBC were linked sources instead of, say, The Toronto Star and CBC, who would actually cover news like this with a bit more detail and care as it falls within their mandates as Canadian news sources.

    A sad, strange loss. I once biked past an injured coyote in my parent’s suburban neighbourhood (I thought it was a stray dog at first). It didn’t pay any attention to me at all. I doubt this was a result of domestication of the animals, as it was in a national park, albeit on a hiking trail. It’s also possible the animal was sick, hungry, or just in a really bad mood.

  6. She was to open tonight for a classmate of mine here in Nova Scotia. He walked into class yesterday and said the concert was canceled because one of the performers had been killed in an accident. When asked how, he said it had been coyotes, which struck me as incredibly bizarre, and then I saw it on CBC news.

    I’d never heard of anyone being killed or seriously injured by coyotes before, but coyotes in Cape Breton can be a serious nuisance. They’ll eat you pets, or any small farm animals.

  7. I’ve seen coyotes along the lakeshore trail on the south side of Chicago. Typically they were completely uninterested in having anything to do with me. They do follow small game into the greenspaces of cities, but I think that ones in the wild would be less enthusiastic about contact with humans, if anything.

  8. I think it was in the CBC article that this was the first known fatal attack by coyotes in Canada. They’re all over NS, but I didn’t worry about it because they’re pretty skittish… There must have been something wrong with them.

    That, and don’t go walking by yourself in the deep dark woods in the fall without any protection (bear spray, etc). It’s just not safe!

  9. My uncle regularly goes out prospecting and shooting in the desert. One time, a coyote pack stalked him for a couple miles, as he made his way back to his car they closed distance and were threatening him. He made noise, threw rocks, fired warning shots, but they wouldn’t flee, finally he took out his revolver and killed who he assumed to be the leader which finally got them to break off. Coyote’s can be very persistent, even more so when they are desperate.

  10. I run into coyotes every now and then while hiking in Griffith Park and they always run away. I’ll throw my 2 cents in with everyone here who has already noted that this incident is seriously bizarre.

  11. That’s horrible and bizarre.

    I wonder if one or more of the animals involved were actually coydogs – coyote dog hybrids. They can be a lot more aggressive and a lot less afraid of people than pure coyotes.

  12. That is seriously strange. I’m in northern New England and we have a large coyote population, but in 30+ years I’ve seen two… and one was stuffed and mounted in my calculus Teacher’s living room. I hear them nightly in the winter but have never actually heard of one attacking a person. That being said a biologist friend of mine told me that Eastern Coyotes have more in common with the endangered eastern grey wolf than with their western coyote cousins. They are larger their more social than western coyotes.

  13. That’s tragic and creepy. I wonder if she was already under impairment or physically wounded when the coyotes attacked? They usually won’t go after a walking, talking fullgrown adult, but somebody who fell down and broke their leg, or is already suffering from hypothermia…

    1. Picking you out Ted, but for everyone’s benefit – she was 5 minutes into a hike down the trail, and quickly found by other hikers.

      She was not sleeping, drunk, stoned, wounded, tired, or otherwise incapacitated – she was right at the very beginning of a hike, and was an experienced hiker so she wasn’t even “exhausted” by just 5 minutes of walking.

      I’m aware that most of the commenters suggesting this probably weren’t aware of those details, but when you are, the suggestions do sound a bit offensive to the poor woman.

      The more details you find out, the more it sounds like “really messed up coyotes”. The trackers the parks dept. called in thought the coyotes involved were young, not even old and decrepit like you get with man-eating large carnivores (but possibly adolescent or otherwise “too young to know any better”).

      My money’s on rabies, one-or-more coydogs, previously injured and thus willing to take “easy game” even if it’s freaky like humans are, or otherwise “nonstandard” coyotes.

  14. While this is tragic, I can’t help but think of the old Saturday Night Live bit where the newscaster was reciting all of the ways that the president (Gerald Ford, maybe?) was killed, and one of them was ‘torn apart by wolves’.

  15. P.S. – Rabies is VERY bad. I used to work in a state health lab doing rabies testing. You really don’t want to know much more about it than you already do.

  16. Living in bear country, I’ve heard some speculate that she may have been menstruating. Hiking alone with carnivores in the area at that time of the month is not a good idea. They become quite determined and aggressive at the smell of blood.

  17. #20: Coyotes’ normal prey are mice, bunnies, moles . . . little things that aren’t particularly rare, even in suburban areas. This isn’t a “eating us because we displaced their prey” situation.

    Back in ’97, the Bay Area was walloped by El Nino rains. Lots of extra vegetation, lots of happy vegetarian critters, and a mini population boom in coyotes. There were a few reports of young ones threatening people. Speculation at the time was that they were young and stupid ones who hadn’t been properly raised by mom & dad.

    I saw a couple of coyotes in a suburban hayfield — hemmed in by office parks, a housing development, and a shopping center — last week. They ran as soon as they saw me and my dog. We chased after them, so they’d Get The Idea. When they had enough of ducking behind hedges they squeezed under a fence into an abandoned, overgrown farmyard and disappeared. What was surprising was the size of one of them. Most coyotes around here are kind of like XL foxes; this guy was Border collie sized. I wonder if he might have been a coydog. My belgian sheepdog could probably have beaten the snot out of the little one, but not this guy.

  18. Eastern coyotes aren’t quite what you get in California. They’ve mostly become wolf-coyote hybrids since the 90s. Coyotes have been frequently known to attack deer in Nova Scotia, and the ones you get in Newfoundland even go for Caribou.

  19. well. i’ve seen coyotes several times in the los feliz neighborhood of L.A., adjacent to griffith park, & i even saw one ambling down the grassy median of burton way in beverly hills once at about 3 in the morning,(during a power outage no less), the always remind me of scavengers; dirty gray coats, going thru the garbage, looking like they want to hit you up for spare change…

  20. Coyotes my ass–that was a WEREWOLF attack. So awful to see such a lovely and talented young woman killed in her prime by rampaging lycanthropes….

    Seriously, though–what could entice coyotes, whose primary prey is small animals like rodents, to attack a *human*? This is more than just a little fishy.

    Regardless, though, DO NOT GO HIKING ALONE. Having grown up in the woods, I can definitively say that the most valuable lesson I ever learned was to never go off alone. ANYthing can happen to you, and if there isn’t someone with you to go for help or assist you in getting back out of the woods, your ass is in for a real treat.

  21. I obviously don’t know what I’m talking about (and absolutely have no idea if this were the case here) but I’ve always wondered if women periodically have a more blood-tinged scent than usual…

    Any doctors or biologists around?

  22. This is why most people in Alaska outside of the urban areas are armed (well, most because of bears, etc; not so much coyotes).

    And yeah… rabies is as bad as having somebody tweeked out on meth… you kinda’ have to take out their brain stem to get em’ to stop…

  23. That’s terrible. Still, while I see a coyote in the (SF) East Bay hills about once for every ten or twelve miles I hike, they are invariably hightailing it away from me as fast as I can. I don’t worry about coyotes as a threat. When I hike solo (which is what I usually do), I be sure make plenty of noise about every quarter-mile or so, since that will scare most mammal predator. I worry much more about rattlesnakes and yellow jacket nests.

  24. Guys,

    Coyotes aren’t foxes. They are canis not vulpes ! They DO eat things other than rodents and small birds. They are opportunistic hunters. They will kill small livestock like sheep and goats and I have personally seen them eating the carcass of a freshly killed yearling deer.

    While they are generally wary of people, they are still wild animals that can get to the 40-50 pound range (as big as a pit bull) easily. Combine that with the fact that they are the de facto apex predator in suburban areas and you shouldn’t be surprised to see a decrease in wariness and an increase in attacks.

    I’m not terribly surprised that a 100 lb girl could be killed by 2 aggressive coyotes.

    No wild animal is harmless. Respect them accordingly.

  25. Coyote attacks are pretty rare, but they occasionally happen.

    My favorite true story happened maybe 10 or 15 years ago in either Southern Illinois or Southeast Missouri. During deer season, a hunter went out into the woods and climbed up into a deer stand. Sometime during the day, he dropped his shotgun and it went off an shot him in the legs, trapping him in the tree. When he didn’t come back at dusk, a search ensued. The search party found him by following the sounds of a pack of coyotes yelping.

    The coyotes had surrounded the tree waiting for him lose enough blood and fall out.

  26. There’s been some recent evidence that the Eastern coyote has in fact hybridized with wolves: my experiences this summer while in Western New York observing them exhibiting pack behavior and being nearly twice the size of normal coyotes was unnerving, especially hearing them all around you in a dark field.

  27. Not a bad way to go, really. Nothing more natural than being torn apart by vicious predators while walking through the woods.

    Talking about eastern timber wolves, a buddy of mine’s uncle out in the woods of NH used to raise them. If you have ever seen a 300lb+ wolf up close, you will not easily forget it. Like something out of Princess Mononoke, for real. Five feet tall at the top of the ears. He called that one ‘Myth’. I’m 6’7″ and not normally afraid of dogs, even big angry ones, but that was something else entirely. Fucking primal. It’s hard to quantify, but it was immediately clear that this was NOT a dog.

    Of course you know there’s just gonna be more and more wolf/coyote/dog hybrids in the future. The warg of the future will be a coyote/wolf/rottweiler/pit bull cross breed, 150 lbs of fearless, scavenging, pack hunting mean, though I imagine the viciousness and fearlessness will largely depend on how often people kill them on sight.

    Carry a fucking weapon, people. We didn’t evolve opposable thumbs for nuthin. A can of mace, easy-opening folding knife, collapsable baton, or walking staff could have saved her life, for real, and would even be suitable for the east coast’s black bear (not that they attack except when rabid or provoked, even when hungry). Wouldn’t want anything less than a large caliber handgun against a grizzly, or maybe a sturdy spear or two-handed sword (if you know how to use one), but you have a fighting chance even with just a big sturdy stick. Most predators will think twice after a good swat in the nose. As a rule, they don’t like being attacked, it’s really disruptive to their game plan. You just gotta respect what’s theirs and demand respect for what’s yours and usually you’re fine. Problem is most people are completely fucking oblivious, they’d walk right between a mother bear and her cubs and never even notice.

    1. If those animals were even 200lbs+, they weren’t timber wolves. North American wolves average 90lbs, and the largest on record, killed in Alaska in 1938, was 175lbs.

      What you saw were most likely wolf/dog hybrids. They are more aggressive and dangerous than either wolf or dog, and (depending on the breed used for hybridization) they could be bred to larger sizes than canis lupus.

  28. considering that Nova Scotia does not have wolves and they are extremely rare even in New Brunswick, it seems unlikely that these coyotes are somehow cross-bred with wolves. In fact, Nova Scotian DNR biologists have already come out and said that they don’t feel that is the case.

    Of course, eastern coyotes are naturally larger than their western counterparts and it has long since been confirmed that that is, at least in part, due to intermingling between coyotes and wolves in the past. But to call these particular coyotes hybrids would not be correct.

  29. Regarding wolf size, the largest wolf on record was a male Alaskan wolf (Canis lupus pambasileus) which weighed 175 pounds. This is the largest wolf subspecies (up to 3 feet tall at the shoulder), but this individual was exceptional – they normally weigh no more than 130 pounds, occasionally up to 150.

  30. I hadn’t seen Jerril’s point that she was only 5 minutes into a hike. If that is indeed true, then it would also add to the possibility that they were coyotes corrupted by human contact. My experience with national parks is that the first 10-30 min of a popular trail is usually crowded, full of tourists, people photographing wildlife, picnicing and people just stretching their legs out of the parking lot. Coyotes there could be exposed to a lot of people using the park. I have never been to this specific Canadian national park, but it sounds more likely that she would not have been in an extremely remote area.

  31. Coydogs are not so afraid of humans, and we are meat, after all. I’ve seen a film of alone coyote taking down a wounded deer. Unlikely that two coyotes with rabies would be enough in their right mind to work together.

    Rest in peace, Ms. Mitchell.

  32. Coyotes and coyote-dog hybrids do not exhibit pack hunting behavior. Preserving that very high-level communication instinct requires both a great deal of stress on the population to eliminate individuals who are disruptive to the group, and a good deal of the wolf blood which evolved it. Some of the Eastern coyote-wolf hybrids are actually mostly wolf.

    1. Coyotes do not exhibit pack hunting behavior??? Really….they only howl in packs, often are seen in groups of 2 to 5 and are known to lure farm dogs away from the yard and out in the open country to tear them apart, sometimes just for the fun of it.

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