Documentary to explore coyote attitudes

Andrew
Andrew Wagstaff
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Parrsboro Film Festival to screen Jason Young’s Bad Coyote, Oct. 27

PARRSBORO – Evil creature or misunderstood animal? Should we kill them all or learn to co-exist?

When it comes to Eastern Canadian wildlife, very few animals stir up public opinion like the coyote. Magnified by attacks on humans in recent years – including one that resulted in the death of 19-year-old Toronto musician Taylor Mitchell – the relationship between this non-native predator and the people who live in Nova Scotia is the subject of Bad Coyote, a documentary film written and directed by Jason Young.

The film will be featured in a screening at this weekend’s Parrsboro Film Festival on Sunday, Oct. 27, after which Young will be available for a question and answer session with the audience.

“For me, the film allows people with closed perspectives to see the other side and see all sides of the debate, and hopefully start a dialogue on the issue,” said the director. “It was absolutely intentional for me to keep it open and undecided, so the viewer can take the different sides of the debate and make up their own minds, but start a conversation about it.”

In October of 2009, Taylor Mitchell was hiking alone on the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park when two coyotes attacked her. She died from her injuries. The following spring, several more coyote encounters with humans were reported in different areas of Nova Scotia, creating a media frenzy and public fear that eventually led to the provincial government opening a cull of the animal.

Young, who had grown up in the Annapolis Valley playing in the woods everyday, was interested in the cultural impact created by this fear.

“People were keeping their kids inside, they stopped walking and hiking… I thought it was quite a serious thing so I felt compelled to do something,” he said.

Three years later, his documentary explores all sides of the issue, including interviews with hunters who say “the only good coyote is a dead coyote,” to scientists who reason that the problem lies more with human behaviour than it does with animal behaviour.

Perhaps most compelling, however, is the perspective of Emily Mitchell, mother of Taylor, who visits the Skyline Trail on the second anniversary of her daughter’s death.

“She was really good, right off the bat,” said Young. “I contacted her about a year after it happened and started a relationship. In the beginning I just wanted her aware of what I was doing – almost her blessing – but the more we talked I immediately realized the inherent conflict within her.”

The majority of the film is shot in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, with the stark imagery of the beautiful coastline almost becoming a character in the film. In one scene, a scientist mocks a coyote howl and receives an answer from the pack that inhabits the Skyline territory.

While he believes the issue of wildlife encounters is a universal one, Young said he made the film with a Nova Scotia audience in mind, and hopes a local audience will be on hand in Parrsboro this weekend to see the film and talk about it.

Having completed the three-year project that was Bad Coyote, the young filmmaker said he still does not know how he feels about the animal.

“I think I’m still afraid of coyotes,” he said. “But what I want for people is to feel a healthy awareness of the animal that is out there, rather than the fear we have.”

Bad Coyote plays on Sunday afternoon at 1:45 p.m.  For more information on tickets or the Parrsboro Film Festival in general, visit www.thehall.ca or contact Helen Tyson at 728-8364.

Click here to see a clip from the film.

awagstaff@citizenrecord.ca

Twitter: @ADNandrew

Geographic location: Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Highlands National Park Toronto Annapolis Valley Skyline territory

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  • Unbelievable!
    October 22, 2013 - 14:08

    So, instead of showing all sides of the story like the article says, I see a huge sob-story about just ONE of the many victims who have passed from an animal attack. I will not even give the film the time of day, because I feel it is too biased to be an honest story. Yes, it's sad that the world lost such a wonderful soul but Christ on a Cracker guys, do we have to kill every Coyote in the world because of it? I read about a bear attack a few weeks ago, why aren't we trying to make THEM extinct?

  • A person who could never understand.
    October 22, 2013 - 14:03

    This is the equivalent to saying every animal who has ever caused potential harm to humans should be eradicated. Just because an animal lashes out at a human does not give anybody the right to extinct an entire species. In my opinion, the people who are trapping and killing these animals for money are split into two separate groups. Group A seems to have good intentions to thin out the coyote population close to towns and cities. Group B only wants the money and is obsessed with killing them because they feel as though any animal who hurts a man is evil, and should die. I'm quite disgusted with the title of this article, and think that we should neither co-exists OR kill every coyote in the world. We should go about our daily business the same as we have since man first walked this earth. Why would we go to such lengths to wipe out a whole species? Are we that far into the woods that we don't think it will have any negative effects long term? I've lived in Parrsboro, Wentworth, Pugwash, Nappan, Salem, Linden, pretty much seen it all when it comes to wildlife, and I can see NO reason for these extremities. NONE. Yet again, I'm not surprised that the hick hunters think this way at all. The only good hunter, is a dead hunter. Especially when he's only doing it for sport. This makes me question society.

    • noodle
      October 27, 2013 - 07:13

      Seriously!?? You wrote, "The only good hunter is a dead hunter." and referred to hunters as "hick hunters." Our very evolution and survival as a species has depended on hunters, and while hunting may not be as necessary in modern society it still remains a valuable skill that should be preserved. With fewer farmers producing food there may come a time when more of us need to learn to hunt to provide for our families. And, by the way eating farmed animals is in no way better than eating a hunted animal. At least a hunted animal has a chance, unlike the factory farm animals who live their lives confined in dark, tiny pens standing in their own crap and being pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. Wild meat is clean meat and just because you don't wish to hunt doesn't mean you get to pass judgement on everyone who does. While I don't personally hunt I certainly have no issues with anyone who chooses to do so as long as they are using the meat and most hunters in rural Nova Scotia are hunting more for food than sport. As far as coyotes go, a cull doesn't really decrease the numbers but it does re-instill a healthy fear of man in these animals which can only be for the benefit of their species overall.

  • A person who could never understand.
    October 22, 2013 - 13:55

    This is the equivalent to saying every animal who has ever caused potential harm to humans should be eradicated. Just because an animal lashes out at a human does not give anybody the right to extinct an entire species. In my opinion, the people who are trapping and killing these animals for money are split into two separate groups. Group A seems to have good intentions to thin out the coyote population close to towns and cities. Group B only wants the money and is obsessed with killing them because they feel as though any animal who hurts a man is evil, and should die. I'm quite disgusted with the title of this article, and think that we should neither co-exists OR kill every coyote in the world. This makes me question society.

    • noodle
      October 27, 2013 - 14:16

      So it's not okay to think any animal who kills a human is evil, but it is okay to think any human who hunts an animal is evil? We're all animals. The point of the cull and the reason most scientists support it is because coyotes are losing their fear of humans, a situation that's dangerous for both people and coyotes. The cull is not intended to eradicate coyotes, and in fact, will not even decrease numbers because coyotes make up for unnatural population losses by having larger litters. However, coyotes are highly intelligent and very adaptable; trapping and hunting will reinforce that humans are a threat to be feared, not a potential food source. The ultimate result will be fewer interactions between humans and coyotes.