Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Coyotes Kill Hiker in Canada

Coyote attack kills Toronto singer in Cape Breton

I discount all of the fatal wolf attacks in North America up to now (there will be real ones someday, of that I am sure), but this attack sounds as if this attack was discovered in real time, with the coyotes still on the scene and a very young, health and physically small girl still (barely) alive and succumbing later on.

It will be interesting to see if rabies is implicated, or whether these coyotes were, in fact, wolf-coyote hybrids.


Heather Houlahan said...

There was a well-documented (non-fatal) case of a wolf preying on a child in Algonquin Park, Ontario about ten or twelve years ago.

The single wolf snatched the kid by the head as he slept between his parents (no tent)!

Dad beat the wolf with a canoe paddle to get him back.

Then they had a hair-raising middle-of-the-night paddle to get medical help.

A young male wolf was killed and sent to Banff for post-mortem, but I never learned the results of the examination.

This is the same park where black bears once in a while decide they are grizzlies, and will stalk, kill, eat and cache the leftovers of some backpacker or paddler.

Do not know if this is coincidence, or if there is something about the way humans and wildlife intersect in that park that does it.

Marie said...

Certainly tragic, but I wonder about the knee-jerk reactions that I am sure will be coming.

Best to try and find the actual culprits and test than to start calling for mass killing of coyotes or other predators.

Another prime example of why not to hike the woods alone - there are wild animals out there.

K said...

I doubt very much that there are any wolves on Cape Breton (which is a relatively island, although it's connected to the mainland now by a causeway), but I did find this from Parks Canada - who knows where they got the info or how accurate it is.

"The eastern coyote is descended from western coyotes which expanded their range northeastward as humans wiped out the native wolf populations. On the way, they interbred with wolves in northern Ontario and Qu├ębec. This means the animals in eastern Canada are actually a coyote-wolf mix, combining the wolf's hunting prowess with the coyote's adaptability to human activities. The eastern coyote is somewhat larger than its western ancestors because of its wolf blood.

The eastern coyote migrated to Nova Scotia in the late 1970s and had arrived in Cape Breton Highlands National Park by 1981. It may be competition for red foxes, bobcats and lynx which depend on snowshoe hares and rodents for food, like the coyote. Although it is a fairly large carnivore and sometimes hunts in packs, it has not filled the shoes of the wolf as the natural predator of moose, except in the spring when they sometimes take calves."

Retrieverman said...

There was a fatal wolf attack in Canada. This from a wildlife expert named Dr. Valerius Geist:



Those were wolves that were habituated to eating garbage-- which blows a big hole in Raymond Coppinger's theory about dog domestication, don't you think?

The best case of wolves preying on people happened in India about ten years ago:

Wolves do occasionally attack people, but because we have selected (unintentionally) for the wariest wolves through our wonderful persecution of them, most wolves won't attack people.

The question as to whether wolves always attacked or avoided people is a good one. I'm thinking that they probably didn't. Other species of wild dog that aren't persecuted by man find us absolutely fascinating for some reason. The Darwin's fox is a good example. It is so named because Darwin killed one with geological hammer! Lewis and Clark killed wolves with knives, luring them close with meat.

Coyotes can be rather more aggressive towards their packmates than wolves, which is probably why we've never domesticated them and they play virtually no role in the development of the domestic dog.

If it is Cape Breton, the only coyotes there have some wolf ancestry.

Ironically, I was listening to this song (sung by a Canadian, accompanied by a mostly Canadian band), when I came across this post:

Retrieverman said...

There are no wolves in the whole of the Maritimes. The nearest ones are in Quebec and Labrador:

PBurns said...

Note: I have edited the first line of the post to add the word "fatal." I said it in my head (yes, I hear voices), but did not write it even though I meant it.

On the cast of whether Kenton Carnegie was killed by a wolf back in 2007, I am a bit skeptical as THERE IS NO WAY TO KNOW. I wrote about the attack at the time and what the evidence could not show one way or another (and why). See >> You will note that I DO say wolves will attack and kill people, and will do so in North America someday, but there has never been proof postive that it has occured yet. Cougars kill a few people every year now. Ditto for both kinds of bear and alligators. And bees, of course, kill more people than all the others put together (the most dangerous animal in nature, I think). But I do not think we have a confirmed wolf kill yet. A confirmed coyote kill? Apparently!


Seahorse said...

I read some of the articles and what a tragic, primeval (for lack of a better word) way to go.

I'm curious though, Patrick, throughout time man has feared wolves, both in North America and in Europe. Why do you discount stories of attacks on humans?


Tim said...

Such a sad accident. In my area we have have a lot of Eastern Coyotes. I would say that they did not really show up in my area of Massachusetts until about 1991 or so. I see them often when I run and they have never acted aggressive toward me. If they get too close, it is generally solved with a rock or a stick thrown in their direction or a simple yell. This ussually sends them running from me. That being said I am not a small female and can't definately say that the coyotes here would never attack people. They just are not known to. I will be interested to learn if these animals were sick.

It was very interesting when these animals were first starting to show up in New England. People were attempting to decide what they actually were, and there were some crazy theories. I did a research paper in college on Eastern coyotes and there was a great story about a hunter in Western Massachusetts (Leyden I think) around 1960, who tracked and eventually killed what was then a mysterious cattle slaying animal. This turned out to be an early Eastern Coyote in Ma. However, I could never find the source or book that contained this story again. Does it sound familiar to anyone?

PBurns said...

Seahorse - Because in all of North America, since before the Revolutionary War, there has not been a documented case of a wolf killing a human. Attacking? Yes! Killing? No. The Kenton Carnegie case, in Canada in 2007, was deemed to probably be a bear but might be a wolf and is unknown due to the condition of the body when found and the lack of eyewitnesses. The only two people who actually visited the site (and who were expert biologists) said they thought it was a bear but coded it "undertemined."

Wolves are far from saints and they WILL attack and kill a human in North America sometime, and maybe soon as their numbers climb. We wiped out wolves very quickly, however, and they would rather flee than fight with humans in most cases.

There is some evidence that North American wolves are more timid than European wolves. There's probably a pretty simple explanation for that: 1)Our wolves are actually pure wolf and not dog crosses as so many European wolves are, and; 2) Our wolves tend to be less acclimated to trash heaps and humans, and have more wild areas to flee into.

In any case, the record is clear: No fatal wolf attacks in North America since the dawn of pen and paper.

Bees kills dozens every year however!


peter said...

The question of whether there are any wolves in eastern Canada depends on how you define "wolf". Eastern Coyotes are heavily interbred with wolves - that's one reason why they are so much bigger than western coyotes. See:
Wilson, P.J., W.J. Jakubas, S. Mullen. 2004. Genetic status and morphological characteristics of Maine coyotes as related to neighboring coyote and wolf populations. Final report to the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund Board, Grant #011-3-7. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Bangor.

The folk singer's death is a tragedy, but speaking as a hiker and backpacker in northern New England for 40 years, people who go hiking in the woods need to take the various risks (injury, bugs, hypothermia, getting lost, predators, etc, etc) SERIOUSLY. She should not have gone hiking alone. Coyotes should not be demonized for being true to their genes and attacking prey.

Retrieverman said...

And it should also be noted that Eastern wolves are also heavily interbred with coyotes.

It seems to me that coyotes are more likely to attack people than wolves are. They are far more aggressive with their packmates than wolves are, which is why coyotes typically don't form large packs. Of course, wolves are more aggressive towards interlopers, which is why they are far more dangerous to dogs than they are to people.

sharon said...

And now this....horrible....

PBurns said...

Not so horrible. I think this falls under the title "welcome to Alaska". There'a reason there's not a lot of long distance solo running up there. This person was from PA and clearly had not thought it through. If it was not a wolf, it would have been a bear, a moose or a truck. The Darwin project is always at play.