Coyote Encounters and Preventable Measures
Coyotes in Urban Areas
The coyote has adapted to living on the borders of urban areas because it is no longer a hunted animal. It has lost its fear of humans because of this. As countless trees are torn down in every suburban town to make way for new construction, coyotes cling to whatever woodland areas they find. (Southwest corner of Lake Cook/Hicks, Harper College, Dundee/Quentin, Brockway/Northwest Hwy., west of the Smith Street dump site, Rand/Frontage, Riemer Reservoir). The coyote habitat has become fragmented due to this construction, so the area where coyotes are often sighted may seem unusual. For example, a coyote seen near Hale/Colfax may be a resident of the wooded land just north of the Plum Grove Business Park or near the Smith Street dump. Also because coyotes are territorial, each group clings to a different parcel of land. Because the coyote has no fear of being hunted, its habits may not be what they use to be.
They are sometimes seen during daylight hours predominately from dusk to dawn. Coyotes are often described as having a German Shepard-like appearance. They have long-thin legs, tapered muzzle and long pointed ears. Their fur ranges from dull yellow to gray. Adult males weight approximately 25-40 pounds while the females are smaller. The peak of their breeding season is late February to early March. In April and May, the pups are born with an average of 5 to 7 in a litter. Scientists have identified 11 different kinds of vocalizations, making them great communicators. Although they normally live in packs, they can live alone, in pairs or in a temporary family group.
The majority of the coyote diet consists of small rodents, rabbits, and mice; however, they sometimes do eat birds, reptiles, fish, and deer carcasses. This may be why they wander into yards. Spilled birdseed attracts animals which then attracts the coyote. Areas with abundant tall grass such as the Riemer Reservoir offer the coyote not only protection but also a large food source because of the smaller wildlife that co-exists there. When their preferred food source is scarce, they may eat berries, insects, and even garden vegetables. Pet food left out at night not only feeds raccoons and opossum but their hunter as well, the coyote. In this sense, the coyote maintains a control on the wildlife population.
Small dogs left unattended and off leash can fall victim to a coyote, which may snatch them up. They are carried off, but soon discarded when it is discovered they are not part of their regular diet. Unfortunately, because of the dog’s size and/or health, they may incur serious injury. Their chance of survival does increase if the animal is found shortly after the incident. Too often, because the animal was unattended, the owner may not even realize it is missing or where it was left behind.
Preventable Measures on Coyote Encounters
- We should not fear coyotes. Like other wildlife, we need to understand they are living next to us because we are slowly tearing down their homes to make way for more and more new condos, townhouses, etc.
- We need to understand that the leash law is enforced not only because it is a village ordinance, but also for the safety of your pets. It not only protects them from encounters with wildlife but from other domestic animals as well. We often have incidents of dogs being bitten by other dogs running loose.
- Do not provide food sources for the coyotes. Do not attempt to feed coyotes. Keep trash securely contained. Do not leave any outside food for pets. Clear away any brush or wood piles to deter smaller wildlife from residing there. Consider fencing in yards-minimum of 6 feet. Install motion light sensors. Animal proof decks and porches to prevent raccoons, opossum, skunks and other small wildlife from residing there. This is like a buffet table for the coyote which makes him return to this yard over and over again.
- Teach your children to respect wildlife as well as not approach them. Do not leave small children unattended. Unfortunately, a child may perceive the coyote as a dog and may think of petting him.
- Never leave smaller pets unattended. Larger dogs may be perceived by the coyote as a threat. Always have a responsible person walk your leashed dog. If a coyote does approach, act aggressively, make loud noises, throw rocks, spray with a hose, etc. Although the response may not be immediate, the coyote will leave. If the coyote approaches, it is out of curiosity.
- It is unrealistic to think we can rid our urban areas of coyote, raccoons, opossum, skunk, or other wildlife. Even if 5 or 10 coyote are removed, there are countless others that migrate or are born every year. Studies conducted by DNR and the Cook County Wildlife District have shown that coyotes attempt to return to the habitat they were removed from.
- We, as intelligent human beings, need to learn to live in harmony with all our wildlife friends and realize that we have displaced them.
The Cook County Coyote Project (www.urbancoyoteresearch.com
), largely funded by the Cook County Animal and Rabies Control agency, is a comprehensive ecological study of coyotes in the Chicago metropolitan area, specifically Cook County, Illinois.