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North Idaho skier fights off coyote attack at Schweizter, shares experience

The Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game says coyote sightings have increased at Schweitzer, with one woman being attacked.

SANDPOINT, Idaho — Sofia Montalbano attends school in Oregon. While visiting the Inland Northwest, she decided to go to Schweitzer for the first time. That day ended early after a coyote attacked her, and now wildlife authorities are asking others to stay vigilant while skiing on the mountain. 

Montalbano says she's been skiing all her life.

"It's fun," Montalbano said. "Something I grew up with."

But, one run at Schweitzer Ski Resort scarred her in ways she never thought were possible.

"So, it (the coyote) appears behind me," Montalbano said. "And so I start trying to go straight down to the cat track as quick as I can. And it bites my leg, and then I turn around to hit it with my ski pole. And then I accidentally go into a tree well. So, then the coyote then starts going crazy on my wrist. Then I'm trying to wrestle it off of me, and also while trying to call for help."

Montalbano was separated from her group and fought the coyote off until help arrived.

"We managed to get it away, but it kept doubling back and trying to get us, which is crazy," Montalbano said. "And then I managed to unclip from my skis and climb out of the tree well, and then we kind of trudge through the snow all while trying to hit away with our poles because it kept trying to come back at us."

Credit: KREM
Sofia Montalbano

Following the attack, she received tetanus, rabies and antibody shots.

"I lost count after 40," Montalbano said.

A Schweitzer spokesperson says wildlife is part of the mountain's environment, but it's always important to keep your distance.

"Sometimes, these animals become habituated because people are feeding them," Schweitzer Communications Manager Taylor Prather said. "So, we really want to avoid those types of interactions and letting our wildlife here stay wild."

"I mean, when you're out on a mountain like that, you're in coyote habitat," Montalbano said. "I mean, stuff like this, it can happen anywhere if you're out in the wild, the wilderness."

Despite the scary situation, she says a few scratches aren't enough to keep her from doing what she loves.

"I've already gone skiing again," Montalbano said. "I'm never going to not love skiing."

But now, she says she'll ski with a bit more awareness of what's in front of her and behind her.

Idaho Fish & Game maintain coyote attacks are rare and say they have killed the Coyote that attacked Montalbano. That animal is being kept for testing while the state agency works to capture others in the area.

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