Stories of coyotes snatching dogs or encroaching on people’s backyards are growing across Illinois for a number of reasons.
Cook County Forest Preserve District Senior Wildlife Biologist Chris Anchor said wildlife researchers are going into 18 years of studying so-called urban coyotes and there’s one thing they’ve found around the state.
“You are in the territory of some coyote family group,” Anchor said. “The vast majority of coyotes are living amongst us and you don’t even know they’re there. It’s very rare that we have a coyote that actually gets in trouble.”
But there are reports around the state of coyotes causing problems in urban settings.
Anchor attributes the increased activity this time of year to it being breeding season.
“Coyotes become much more active during the day,” Anchor said, “and they’re actively defending their territory from other coyotes, but in the process they come in contact with more domestic dogs and people’s cats and things.”
A security camera got footage of a coyote attacking a small dog in Northfield. In Springfield, aldermen said they’ve heard similar reports from constituents. They asked Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow what can be done about it. Winslow said he’s been asked the same thing by city residents.
“‘What if I’m walking down the street and it’s attacking me and it’s coming right at me’,” Winslow recalled a conversation with a resident.
“‘I got my concealed carry, what can I do?’ I’m not your attorney,” Winslow said. “I’m not your legal advisor. You make your decision and we’ll deal with whatever happens when it comes out.”
Winslow said it’s illegal to hunt in the city or even fire off your gun in the city.
Anchor said residents could carry pepper spray.
“If an animal gets close enough that you feel threatened, generally it’s close enough to pepper spray,” Anchor said. “In those cases where people have pepper sprayed coyotes, the problem disappears very quickly.”
While there aren’t any reports of people getting attacked by coyotes in Illinois, Anchor said it’s an issue elsewhere.
“The attacks that have been documented have been documented typically on children 6 and under in North America and, with rare exception, every single one of them was preceded by people actively feeding coyotes,” Anchor said.
The best things residents can do, Anchor said, is to not feed coyotes, teach kids to not approach or feed any wild animal, keep track of family pets, leash them when on trails, and make sure trash cans with food waste are secure.
More information about the Urban Coyote Project can be found at UrbanCoyoteResearch.com.