coyote in the forest

Why Did A Coyote Attack A Skier In Yellowstone?

On Tuesday, January 28th, a 43-year-old woman was bitten by a coyote while skiing in Yellowstone National Park. Coyote attacks are extremely rare, so the question that comes to mind is, why did this happen? As stated in the press release below, it appears that the coyote may have been starving due to a run-in with a porcupine that left quills in its lower jaw and mouth.

Official Press Release:

On Tuesday, January 28, at approximately 9:50 a.m., park dispatch received a call that a coyote bit a woman in the Canyon Village area. The individual was cross-country skiing on the Grand Loop Road near the South Rim Drive when the incident occurred.

Witnesses took the 43-year-old woman to the Canyon Visitor Education Center, where rangers provided initial treatment for puncture wounds and lacerations to her head and arm. Rangers transported her to Mammoth Hot Springs by over-snow vehicle, and then she continued on to a medical facility.

Park staff temporarily closed the road, then positively identified and killed the coyote. The coyote is being necropsied and will be tested for rabies.

“Encounters like these are rare, but they can happen. We suspect this coyote may have been starving due to having porcupine quills in its lower jaw and inside its mouth. Its young age likely led to its poor condition and irregular behavior,” said wildlife biologist Doug Smith.

Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are wild and unpredictable. Be aware of your surroundings. Never feed wildlife. Animals that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed. Keep all food, garbage, or other smelly items packed away when not in use. Stay 25 yards (23 m) away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves.

There have only been two confirmed fatal attacks from coyotes in the last 100 years. In 1981 a coyote grabbed a three-year-old girl named Kelly Keen in her driveway in Glendale, CA. In 2009 two coyotes killed a young singer-songwriter named Taylor Mitchell at Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia.

While animal attacks of any kind are relatively rare, it’s important that you know how to stay safe when enjoying the outdoors. Those visiting Yellowstone should be aware of the potential dangers and should take the time to read the safety guide specifically written for Yellowstone National Park.