A three-year-old boy in Burnaby, B.C. needed some 100 stitches across his forehead and on the back of his head after he was viciously attacked by a coyote Tuesday.
Amanda Dycke told CTV her son Ayden had slipped out the backyard gate behind the family's home in the Sperling-Broadway neighbourhood at around 5:15 p.m. Seconds later, she heard him scream.
"I ran out through the front…I didn't see until I got to the sidewalk that there was a coyote gnawing on his head," she said.
"I started making as much noise as I could—clapping—and I [saw] it wasn't working and I started charging at full speed not caring if it was leaving or not."
That made the animal retreat enough for Dycke to scoop up her son and run away.
"He looked like he was dying," she said. "His eyes were covered in blood, his ears, his whole shirt."
"I didn't know if it was his neck or if they had gotten the rest of his body. I thought he was going to bleed to death because he's so little."
She said her partner, Chris, and neighbours who had heard the commotion quickly gathered to help as she called 911.
The incident left Ayden, who is on the autism spectrum and has anemia, with several deep wounds on his head, the worst of which measured about six centimetres across on the right side of his forehead. The boy also had several puncture wounds and scratches on his arms and legs.
Dycke said she wasn't sure of the extent of her son's injuries until they arrived at Children’s Hospital and staff began treating him.
"I [saw] his skull and that was, oh my goodness, he could have actually died if that thing would've punctured his skull because he's just little," she said. "It was just the most horrific thing I could ever imagine."
Ayden needed more than 100 stitches. As long as his wounds don't become infected, he will make a full recovery, his mother said. But Dycke said the emotional trauma left behind by the attack will take much longer to heal.
"It's very terrifying. It's very vivid. I'm not sure if or when I'll ever be able to shake that kind of image out of my head," she said, adding that Chris, who was outside at the time, blames himself for not having been there to protect the boy.
"That's your baby, that's your child. At any age, to see them in that amount of distress, that kind of situation, you don’t ever think it'll be your kid."
Later Tuesday night, conservation officers located and put down a coyote that matched the description and behaviour of the animal that attacked Ayden.
According to Sgt. Dean Miller of the BC Conservation Officer Service, investigators will now perform DNA testing to make sure they captured the right coyote.
The carcass, he said, will also be tested to ensure the animal wasn't carrying any harmful diseases that might have been transmitted to Ayden.
"It’s unlikely that there’s rabies or anything like that," he said. "Rabies are quite rare, but you can’t rule it out. You have to do your due diligence and assure the parents that their child will not have continual problems after this incident."
Dycke said authorities also placed evidence markers along a trail of her son's blood near the house and took before and after photos of his injuries.
Wildlife experts say that while the incident is a serious one, coyote attacks on humans are exceedingly rare.
"Typically, they happen less than once a year," said Greg Hart of the Stanley Park Ecology Society. "The vast majority of our coyotes are doing what we would expect them to be doing: eating rodents at night and avoiding people."
Hart said most attacks on humans can be traced back to a person deliberately feeding them.
"That's the best way for a coyote to lose its fear of people. That food reward is a really powerful motivator to change a coyote's behaviour," he said.
According to Dycke, that's exactly what happened in her son's case, adding that coyotes are common in the neighbourhood because people feed them.
"People don't understand that it's attracting them. It's making them want to come an area they shouldn't like. They shouldn't want to be here. They should be afraid of us," she said.
Now, she’s sharing her son’s story in hopes of raising awareness so that no other children are harmed.
"Because people don't listen to these rules, the information that is put out there, my son is paying the price."
Authorities are reminding the public that any threatening or aggressive wildlife behaviour should be reported at 1-877-952-7277.
Hart said that if you come face-to-face with a coyote, the best thing to do is "be big, be brave and be loud," adding that even children can scare the animals away using this method.
With files from CTV Vancouver's David Molko