TAYLOR MITCHELL ATTACK
The Taylor Mitchell Attack
On October 27th, 2009, a
woman was attacked by eastern coyotes while hiking
on a trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park
This is the first and, so far, only case of
an adult human fatality as a result of a coyote
Taylor Mitchell was a
19-year-old aspiring musician from
Ontario, on a tour to promote her
She was hiking alone on
the Skyline Trail and there were no witnesses to the
attack, but there were witnesses that saw
and the coyotes prior to, and following, the attack.
The Skyline Trail is one
of the most popular hiking trails in the park,
easily accessible and experiences 20,000 to 25,000
Coyotes arrived on Cape
in 1978 and following their arrival, deer were
depleted by the late 1980′s.
During June 2010, I was
invited by National Geographic to visit the sites
and interview the people involved with the incident,
in an attempt to determine why the attack occurred.
Our work was done in
close collaboration with Taylor Mitchellís mother,
Indeed, some of the witnesses had not talked about
their experience in any great detail out of respect
for Emily, and they spoke to us only after Emily
asked them to do so.
National Geographic either took me to meet
with the subjects or they actually arranged to have
some come to Nova Scotia for
Details of this work
will be reported elsewhere, and when it becomes
available we will post it here.
here is a brief overview of what we know.
Taylor arrived at the Skyline Trail parking lot on the
afternoon of October 27, 2009, dressed appropriately
for the cold weather, wearing no backpack and
carrying no food.
was attacked in the middle of that afternoon by at
least two coyotes, and possibly more.
She was found by four hikers a short time
following the attack.
The hikers had to scare coyotes away from
her, and she was critically wounded.
Despite the tremendous
efforts by medical teams, she passed away later that
Removal efforts were undertaken by Parks Canada
immediately following the incident and 6 coyotes
were collected at the scene or during the following
Two of the coyotes were
positively linked to the scene, and another was
All coyotes were necropsied and genetically
Necropsy results indicate no evidence of disease,
coyotes were in excellent physical condition, and
natural foods were in their gastrointestinal tract.
Evidence at the scene
and her injuries strongly suggest this was a
There was no evidence of food provisioning
prior to the attack, but for some unknown reason
these coyotes altered their behavior to a lack of
fear toward people.
There were no reports of problems with
coyotes in the park earlier (although there had been
some conflicts in previous years).
The coyotes were extremely healthy, so
disease or physical condition were not factors.
confirmed that these were eastern coyotes, meaning
that they were actually a type of coyote-wolf
Some lines of evidence suggest that eastern coyotes
are more likely to hunt in packs, and are therefore
more likely to kill and consume larger prey, when
compared to typical coyotes.
To what extent this genetic variant played a
role in the Taylor Mitchell incident is unknown.
There is no evidence yet that eastern coyotes
are more aggressive than typical coyotes.
Parks Canada has initiated intensive research
projects to hopefully identify what led to the
change in coyote behavior, and to evaluate the
effectiveness of different management strategies.
At this point, we do not
know if this attack was an isolated event that is
unlikely to ever happen again, or if there is a risk
to be concerned with.
Emily Mitchell has
created a foundation in Taylorís name, that people
can contribute to: