A pack of coyotes attacked a woman hiking with her three dogs on Sunday, before stalking her down the path until she could reach safety.
Cindy Wade said the “shocking” encounter has given her anxiety about trekking a trail that’s been a part of her routine for a decade. She said she worries it could happen to somebody else.
“I never saw it coming. I never heard it coming, ” Wade said. “The next thing I knew my feet were in the air I was just trying to figure out what had hit me.”
The incident is the latest in a massive spike of coyote attacks on humans over the winter, B.C. Conservation Service has previously told Black Press media. All of these attacks have been on runners and cyclists.
At approximately 3 p.m., April 25, Wade was walking Jacob’s Ladder Trail adjacent to Heritage Park when something slammed into the back of her knees, causing her to fall head over heels downhill.
The next thing she heard was her Australian Shepherd screeching, and seeing a “big blur of fur” as she got to her feet. Wade’s fall had been partially broken by her large Karelian Bear Dog, which then chased off the attacker into the woods behind them.
She said she heard crackling in the bushes to her left, and caught a glimpse of brown ears peaking above the foliage.
When Wade turned around, she was face-to-face with the head coyote again, which had circled back and stood elevated on the hill she had just tumbled down.
She said it was three feet away from them, and big.
Wade said she initially turned to run, but stopped herself, instead opting to stare down the large coyote while walking backwards until she could reach an exit. The wild dogs followed.
“I just kept screaming, “No! No! No!” and yelling and putting out my arms – he didn’t seem to care,” she said. “I could hear the other ones right close to me in the bush walking.”
The tense standoff lasted for 10 minutes, Wade estimates, until she ran into another group on the trail, who escorted her to her van.
B.C. Conservation Service has confirmed the report, and said an officer investigated the area shortly after the attack, but no trace of the animals could be found.
“We’re monitoring the area very closely,” said Sgt. Todd Hunter. “It is relatively rare … but it does happen from time to time.”
Hunter said they haven’t been alerted to similar encounters in the area which would indicate any escalation, but that the service is taking the incident seriously.
He said they’re alerting people to be cautious in the area, and report any further incidents immediately. Signs will be installed if further reports are made in the next few weeks.
Generally, the BC Conservation Service’s response is dictated by circumstance, not pre-judged reactions, Hunter said, but added they won’t “jeopardize safety.”
“We don’t really have an ability to relocate coyotes back into the environment, especially if they’re in a conflict where someone’s hurt,” he said. “(But) we’re not going around wantonly eliminating wildlife.”
Hunter said it’s a peak time of year for human-wildlife interactions, and they are seeing an increase in encounters as more people go outside and the weather warms.
A variety of factors could explain Sunday’s incident, but easy food sources in the community are a big concern as it can cause abnormal behaviours in coyotes, according to Hunter.
“People are leaving things out … They are actually diminishing the public safety in the area,” Hunter said. “Those types of habituated coyotes are the most dangerous.”
People hiking in wooded areas need to be prepared for potential wildlife encounters, travel in pairs, make noise, and follow municipality’s rules around dog leashes, according to Hunter. He said that prevention is the best response.
“I’m not saying this is the case in this situation, but we are recommending those things,” he said. “In this case, the person was yelling, and she put fear into the coyotes and they ran off. That’s exactly some of the type of stuff that we want people to do.”
Wade said the behaviour seemed territorial to her, and they may have thought she and her dogs were another pack. She said they had passed two teenage boys, just prior to the encounter.
“I grew up on a farm, and I’m used to little tiny brown coyotes. I’ve never been worried,” Wade said. “I was just always under the assumption if I left them alone, they’d leave me alone.”