Harrowing last moments of teen savaged by coyotes as she hit back with penknife

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Hearing bloodcurdling screams and howls, hikers in Canada's Highlands called police and went to investigate.

A trail of blood, torn clothing and a discarded penknife led them to a horrific scene of carnage.

Suddenly, they spotted a young woman lying helpless on the ground with a bloodied coyote standing over her. She had been savaged by a pack of the wild, wolf-like animals, leaving bleeding profusely from several wounds.

The poor woman was Taylor Mitchell, who at just 19 was a rising star in the world of country music. She remained conscious and was airlifted to hospital but died of blood loss.

Her death in 2009 was the first known killer attack by coyotes in Canada.

This week, authorities urged people to stay out of Vancouver's Stanley Park after a spate of coyote attacks on humans since December. The warning suggests the animals are increasingly becoming a menace in the country.

When Taylor was set upon by coyotes, she had the world at her feet.

The talented young singer had just released her first album to rave reviews and had been nominated in the Canadian Folk Music Awards as Young Performer of the Year.

Taking a rare day off from her tour, the nature lover chose to go for a walk in the woods in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia.

That same afternoon an American couple in the area were shocked when two coyotes walked up the middle of a road towards them, showing no fear.

Coyotes, which are slightly bigger than foxes but smaller than wolves, are common in North America. They typically live on small animals such as rabbits and rodents and normally flee at the first sight of humans.

The couple were so amazed at the animals' brazen behaviour, they moved away and took a picture of them.

Several minutes later, the couple heard animal howls and a young woman screaming. A trail led them and three other hikers to Taylor.

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She had been mauled by a pack of the animals and suffered numerous serious bite marks to her leg and head.

The coyote standing over her did not move when the group shouted at it, and only ambled away when they charged at it.

It remained close by, growling and unafraid, until a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer arrived and fired his shotgun at it.

Taylor died a short time later.

From evidence at the scene it appeared she had been stalked by the animals for some time and had been trying to flee back to her car when they attacked. She had defended herself with the penknife, and her car keys, but to no avail.

She remains the only person ever killed by a coyote attack in Canada.

The only other fatal coyote attack in North America had been 18 years earlier when an urban coyote attacked and killed a three year old girl playing in her garden in Los Angeles, California.

Authorities immediately began trying to hunt down the killer coyote pack.

A warden keeping watch on where her body was found came across a female coyote acting aggressively and shot it.

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Four others were caught in leg traps near the scene. Three of the animals had Taylor's blood on their coats and were linked to the attack through other forensic evidence.

One of them, a large male coyote, was the same animal which had been photographed by the American couple and shotgun pellets in its body proved it was the one which had been attacking her when she was found.

Taylor's mother subsequently issued a statement saying that her daughter would not have wanted her death to result in the the coyotes being killed.

She wrote: “We take a calculated risk when spending time in nature’s fold — it’s the wildlife’s terrain. When the decision had been made to kill the pack of coyotes, I clearly heard Taylor’s voice say, ‘Please don’t, this is their space.’ She wouldn’t have wanted their demise, especially as a result of her own."

Experts say it is possible the animals mistook Taylor for a deer or other prey and stressed such coyote attacks were almost unheard of.

However, the incident was not the last.

The following month, in mid November 2009, a coyote came up behind a couple walking in the park and got so close the man hit it on the head with a walking stick.

Ten months later a sixteen-year-old girl on a camping trip elsewhere in Nova Scotia was bitten twice on the head by a coyote.

A charitable foundation was subsequently started in Taylor Mitchell's honour, promoting musical/creative expression, as well as educating people on habitat preservation and human and wildlife interaction.

  • Animals

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