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Illinois Outdoors

Coyotes closer than you think

June 01, 2008 at 03:01 PM

In the 1850s, coyotes were plentiful pests in Illinois. Bounties were offered for these so-called “prairie wolves,” notorious in those days for killing livestock and damaging crops. A century later, coyotes were so sparse they were called “ghosts of the prairie.” They were heard, but rarely seen.

But coyotes are survivors, and the number of coyotes is up again, according to Bob Bluett, a wildlife biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Now, they’re everywhere.

Coyotes can be found living in cities like Chicago. They have been spotted downtown at the Art Institute and at O’Hare International Airport, where their presence can cause landing delays when they roam near runways.

They’re here, too, in Springfield.

“People don’t realize that we have coyotes in Springfield,” says Jackie Peeler, assistant director and general curator of Springfield’s Henson Robinson Zoo. “We have a very, very healthy population of coyotes around here. When I’m going home in the evening, it’s not that unusual to see one or two.

“We’ve even seen them downtown,” she says. “They are all over Springfield.”

Peeler says she gets calls from local residents who’ve seen them and wonder if they’re dangerous.

Coyotes have been seen near Washington Park, Illini Country Club, Lake Springfield, behind the Break Time bar (close to White Oaks Mall), on the east side and in outlying areas.

“I’ve heard them for over a decade now, from the first week we moved in to just last week,” says Stuart Byers of Chatham. He adds that coyotes can be heard howling almost every night.

“It’s coming from the fields at the edge of our subdivision, a half-block from our house.”

He says a neighbor spied three coyotes in a neighboring subdivision last year.

Susan Faupel, who lives in Pleasant Plains, has coyotes nearby, too.

“We hear coyotes out back of our house frequently,” she says. “I love hearing them, but we’ve never seen them.

“They never pose any problem for us, although I suspect one got our aging outdoor cat.”

Coyotes are here because they’re losing habitat to urban sprawl.

“It’s not them moving into our yards; it’s us moving into theirs,” says Bonnie Cannon, education director at Wildlife Prairie State Park in Peoria. The park has two captive coyotes and there are wild ones living in the area.

“Coyotes are very, very good at adapting,” Peeler says. “They have the ability to adapt to urban life much better than many other mammals.

“They can even change their reproductive habits when their circumstances are challenged.”

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources typically gets calls about coyote sightings this time of year because it’s their birthing season and adults are out foraging for their young, Bluett says.

The big question people have is, are coyotes dangerous?

Bluett has no reports of coyotes hurting people in the Springfield area. Other animals are much more in contact with people, including raccoons, opossums, striped skunks, tree and gray squirrels and woodchucks.

“Coyotes are far from the top of that list,” he says.

For the most part, coyotes and human beings live together as good neighbors.

“Occasionally you have certain (individual coyotes) that develop behaviors that aren’t acceptable, such as losing their fear of people or targeting and killing pets,” Bluett says. “But for the most part, their presence is not a problem.”

Between 2000 and 2006, Ohio State University studied coyotes living in Chicago.

“We were surprised to find so many coyotes living near people in Cook County, and yet relatively few conflicts have been reported,” the researchers wrote. Those coyotes ate mostly small rodents, deer, fruit, rabbits, birds, raccoons and grass.

Still, “they can take both small dogs and cats,” Peeler says. “I’ve heard of situations where people have lost some barn cats (to coyotes); that’s not unusual.”

Peeler advises that people should keep away from coyotes. Pets should be kept on a leash and not be allowed to roam free.

“People see coyotes as dogs ... and they tend to try to make them friendly, and that’s when you typically run into problems. Scare them off.”

She suggests yelling, banging pots or spraying them with water.

And not feeding them.

“If they come to depend on you for a meal, they’re going to get a little too bold and approachable,” Peeler says. “If (the coyote) gets too used to being near you, then someone is going to get hurt and chances are very strong it’s going to be someone’s pet and the coyote.”

Another precaution: Don’t leave pet food or water outside.

“If you have smelly trash, put it in the freezer until it’s time to take it out with the garbage. That keeps your garbage from smelling,” Cannon says. “That’s what brings coyotes in.”

“I think we can co-exist very well with (coyotes),” Peeler says. “It’s just a matter of making sure both sides respect each other and have the distances they need.”

Besides, Bluett says, the coyotes probably are here to stay. 

Illinois Outdoors

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Yes you do have coyotes in Springfield their at the state capitol.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/05 at 03:06 PM

Actually, the Alpha male coyote lives in Chicago, he just vacations in Springfield.  I see his litter mate just got sent to the pound.  Hopefully they will euthanize the both of them.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/05 at 04:42 PM

I go to Springfield frequently and see dead coyotes littered on the Interstate every time.  Good riddance, I say.. I’m gonna be awfully angry when I’m the one hitting one, though.  I’ve come close a few times.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/18 at 02:05 PM

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