Take Care of Our Coyotes

With an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 coyotes (Canis latrans) living in Cook County, it's not unusual to see them along the Chicago River system. While bites are very rare, with documented cases numbering in the hundreds over decades versus 4.7 million dog bites a year, they are scary. Two coyote bite cases were reported in Chicago recently.

As with all wildlife, people should take care while around coyotes. Experts advise that coyotes should not be fed (and feral cats, which can be prey for coyotes, should not be fed, either.) Pets should not be left outside alone. And if you come upon a coyote, do not run; it is better to shout or throw something to scare the normally shy coyote away, says the Urban Coyote Research Project.

Quick, sleek, and beautiful, these apex predators help keep geese, rabbits, and white-tailed deer populations under control and are integral to our environment. Medium-sized members of the dog family like foxes and wolves, they have pointed ears, a slender muzzle, usually grayish brown fur, and yellow eyes which easily distinguish them from domesticated canines.

Coyotes are excellent hunters with exceptional eye sight, hearing, and senses of smell and their varied diet primarily consists of animal meat including rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates, occasionally supplemented with fruits and vegetables.

They are masters of adaptation: rural coyotes are most active in the morning, daytime, and early evening, while urban coyotes have altered this natural rhythm and hunt at night. While still preferring open areas, the adaptable coyote often crosses between woodland, wetland, savanna, and prairie habitats and will piece together territory in parks and other urban natural areas when necessary. A winter walk in the woods is a good time to see one.

Click here for more on the wildlife of the Chicago River.

Photo: Nohrmal/Creative Commons