'Starving' Young Coyote Bites Woman Skiing in Yellowstone National Park

A young coyote that may have been starving bit a woman who was skiing in Yellowstone National Park before park officials found the animal and killed it.

The animal attacked the skiier around 9:50 a.m. on Tuesday on Grand Loop Road near the South Rim Drive in the Canyon Village area of the Wyoming park, the National Park Service said in a news release.

Park officials said witnesses took the victim, a 43-year-old woman, to the Canyon Visitor Education Center where rangers treated her for puncture wounds and lacerations to her head and arm.

Rangers then transported her to Mammoth Hot Springs and then a medical facility. Her condition was not immediately known.

Park staff temporarily closed Grand Loop Road and located and killed the coyote that attacked the woman. The animal is being tested for rabies, park officials said.

In a statement, Yellowstone wildlife biologist Doug Smith said coyote attacks in the park are rare. He said the animal in question may have been starving as officials found porcupine quills in its jaw and mouth.

"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," Smith said. "Its young age likely led to its poor condition and irregular behavior."

Park officials did not reveal information about any previous attacks by coyotes in Yellowstone, but warned visitors that wildlife in the park are "wild and unpredictable." According to the National Park Service, bison have injured more people in Yellowstone than any other animal.

The Associated Press reported that attacks by elk and bison in Yellowstone occur at least a couple of times a year, usually when visitors get too close to or try feeding the animals.

Park officials urged visitors to remain aware of their surroundings, to never feed wildlife and keep all food, garbage, and "smelly items" packed away when not in use.

"Animals that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed," according to the news release.

Visitors should stay 25 yards from large animals such as bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes and at least 100 yards from bears and wolves, officials added.

Coyotes are "abundant" in Yellowstone, according to the National Park Service, and can be commonly seen traveling through open meadows and valleys. They are "intelligent and adaptable"—a trait that helped coyotes resist efforts early in the 1900s to exterminate them in the western U.S. including in Yellowstone.

coyote Yellowstone
Stock photo: A coyote in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. A 43-year-old woman was bitten by a young coyote while cross-country skiing in the park. Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images