Police used a helicopter to help rescue a woman and her three dogs Thursday night in Edmonton after a pack of seven to nine coyotes attacked one of the dogs while on a walk in the southwest area of the city.
The woman called 911 at 8:20 p.m. after falling down a six-metre embankment in the Riverbend/Terwillegar area while trying to save her dog.
Police used Air 1 to light the area, while tactical officers rappelled down the embankment to rescue the woman, who was unhurt.
Const. Steve Minarchi from the Edmonton police tactical section said the woman was frightened because she believed the coyotes were stalking her.
“It was very obviously very late at night. It was dark," he said. "She was in some pretty thick bush and was obviously pretty scared.”
Meanwhile, the injured dog ran out onto the frozen North Saskatchewan River.
“What it looks like is that the dog actually ran onto the ice to get away from the coyotes and they were probably smart enough not to follow it," Minarchi said.
The dog was rescued by Edmonton Fire Rescue and taken to an emergency veterinary clinic just before 11 p.m.
“The dog as of last night was obviously pretty badly injured, but it was alive at the time that we were able to retrieve it," Minarchi said.
There was no update on the dog's condition on Friday. The woman's other two dogs were unhurt.
Minarchi didn't see the coyotes himself, but said officers in the police helicopter saw about 10 of them on the ground.
Fish and Wildlife officer Francesco Marchet thinks the coyotes were trying to defend their territory.
"It is coming to the end of their breeding season, so you're going to have a few coyotes in the area," he said.
Maureen Murray, an expert in coyote behaviour at the University of Alberta, finds it unusual that the pack was so large.
“Normally coyote packs are around four or five— generally the breeding pair and then their young from the previous year,” she said.
“So to have nine coyotes travelling around together, especially in a city where there's lots of little things to eat, is extremely unusual.”
Murray said people should keep their dogs on a leash to avoid these types of attacks. The best way to scare a coyote is to make a lot of noise or throw sticks and rocks at it to make it go away.