Illinois Department of Natural Resources
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Bob Bluett, 217-782-6384
Coyotes Join Wildlife Migration to Cities
CHICAGO AREA IS HOME TO GROWING NUMBERS OF COYOTES
SPRINGFIELD, ILL. -- Chicagoans talk passionately about Da’ Bears and
Cubs, but there is a new, growing presence in Chicagoland: da’ coyotes
-- not a sports team, but the real four-legged critters.
Coyotes have given rise
to some controversy. Some Chicagoans enjoy chances to watch their antics
in the urban wild. Others praise coyotes’ skills in controlling geese,
deer and rodents that over-run golf courses, parks and gardens.
But others complain when
their house pets turn up missing.
“A delicate balance
definitely exists between good and bad impacts when coyotes come to
town,” says Dr. Stan Gehrt, a wildlife biologist and professor at Ohio
State University. “There’s no way to minimize how people feel when the
family cat doesn’t come home.” Gehrt is in charge of ongoing studies to
monitor urban coyotes in the Chicago area; studies started when he
worked at the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation in Dundee, Illinois.
Gehrt began studies in
Cook County when residents began noticing more coyotes in urban areas
near fields and wild areas. A few cats and dogs disappeared, and
biologists decided it was time to understand more about the situation.
Research focuses on population dynamics, movement patterns, coyote
health and mortality factors, and recommendations for urban management.
The studies continue for another two years.
Coyotes once were rare in
Illinois. As many as 30 years ago, coyote populations were low due to
now-defunct eradication programs. Coyotes have proliferated since then,
moving from the western U.S. into eastern habitat where wolves used to
be. Coyotes are adaptable and can live almost anywhere. Chicago is a
case in point.
“Surprisingly, in Chicago
there is plenty of food for coyotes,” Gehrt notes. “Coyotes help stem
urban deer over-population -- a serious concern to vehicle drivers,
gardeners and park managers. In some areas, coyotes take 70 to 80
percent of urban fawns each year. Also, anyone who has battled throngs
of cranky Canada geese or slipped on a blanket of droppings in the park
knows that geese often are a problem. Coyotes eat goose eggs, goslings
and occasionally nesting adults.”
Gehrt continues, “Some
golf course managers are glad to see coyotes because they feed on
rodents that often damage wiring and dig holes. It is quite entertaining
to watch a coyote pouncing and playing in a field near office buildings
and homes. From that standpoint, coyotes provide a great service.”
And about house pets?
“It’s true,” Gehrt
admits. “Coyotes living near residential areas sometimes snatch house
pets. Roaming cats and smaller dogs are at risk in coyote habitat, which
includes fields, parks and woods.”
He notes that people
sometimes demand eradication of coyotes. But eliminating all coyotes is
not practical, economical or workable. Research shows that once coyotes
are removed, others quickly replace them. Therefore, widespread removal
is a temporary solution. “Only a few coyotes take domestic pets,” Gehrt
says. “When an offending coyote is identified, a nuisance control
specialist can remove it. The best thing that a pet owner can do is take
precautions to keep a pet safe and not encourage coyotes to come near.
Humans shouldn’t encourage coyotes; it only lessens their fear of pets
Steps for keeping pets
safe, if your home is near coyote habitat, include:
- Don’t feed any wild
animals such as raccoons or deer, which encourages coyotes as well.
- Keep cats indoors at
- Keep your dog on a
- Don’t leave cat or dog
- Secure garbage in
areas where coyotes can’t access it; keep yards clean of refuse and
- Do not let pets out at
night unless accompanied by a person.
“Coyotes usually are
nocturnal and often live near people, but people often never know they
are there,” Gehrt explains. “Most coyotes are harmless; their goal is to
eat more natural foods such as mice and rabbits. However, coyotes are
opportunistic. If coyotes see easy food – such as open garbage -- and
aren’t afraid, they may take advantage. That puts pets in direct line
for confrontation with pets. Coyotes aren’t interested in eating pets,
these are territorial disputes.”
Coyotes maintain healthy
numbers in urban areas. About 30 percent of country-living coyotes live
to see a new year; in the city, that survival rate is 58 percent.
Diseases have little impact on urban coyotes; their biggest cause of
death is automobiles.
Trappers and hunters have
some effect on rural coyote populations. “There are a number of
sportsman’s clubs dedicated to coyote hunting in Illinois. People hunt
and trap them for their pelts and to decrease their numbers. Hunting and
trapping provide many benefits, especially in helping maintain a balance
between coyotes and people,” Gehrt says.
a couple recommendations for Chicagoans,” Gehrt intones. “Follow simple
precautions to keep your pets safe, and enjoy watching these urban
wonders when you get a chance. They really are quite amazing.”
For more information on
coyotes in Illinois, contact Illinois DNR at 217-782-6384.
Learn more about coyotes by visiting the Fur Hunting and Trapping in
Illinois website at