Over the past several years, coyotes and fox sightings have become more prevalent within the city and surrounding communities. Although you may be shocked to see a coyote running through the city it is not unusual.
Many wild animals, including the coyote and fox, adapt very well to urbanization and can cohabit with humans. Some people have expressed concern about these animals attacking children and pets. Attacks by coyotes on humans are extremely rare and attacks on humans by fox are non-existent. In fact, both animals are very skittish and tend to shy away from direct contact with humans. While coyotes can pose a threat to domestic pets their diet consists of mostly small mammals including mice, rabbits, and squirrels but will also eat fruits and vegetables, especially in the fall. When letting your dog out at dusk or after dark, check the yard for any type of wild animal. Turn lights on and make some noise in order to scare off any possible wild animal that may be in the immediate area. It is worth considering that no documented case of a coyote biting a human has been reported for Cook County. Contrast that result with domestic dogs, in which Cook County often records 2,000 to 3,000 dog bites each year (including some fatalities).
Feeding coyotes completely breaks down their natural fear of humans, and can cause them to become unusually aggressive. Food placed out for other wildlife such as birds and squirrels attracts coyotes who are seeking the small animals as a food source. Coyotes are opportunistic, bringing in dog or cat food in the evening will also eliminate a potential food source. Few coyotes live past 3-4 years of age.
Seeing a coyote cross a field, backyard, road or golf course does not necessarily constitute a problem or dangerous situation, either for humans or domestic animals. Coyotes will be more active and more visible in late winter/early spring during the breeding season. 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 them in direct line for a confrontation with pets. Coyotes aren’t interested in eating pets, these are territorial disputes. Studies have shown that attempts at eliminating all coyotes are not practical, economical or workable. When coyotes are removed others quickly move in. Overpopulations of Canada geese and deer in urban and suburban areas have provided coyotes with plenty of food sources. Removing all coyotes from an area is unrealistic and always temporary.
The question has also been asked as to why the police department will not capture and remove these animals. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, trying to reduce and control the coyote population will not work. The void created by a coyote’s death or removal will be filled within three to four weeks. Coyotes are also intelligent animals and very difficult to catch in a live trap. Traps successfully used to capture coyotes are “snare” or “leg hold” traps which are dangerous to children as well as adults. Unless an animal has demonstrated aggressiveness toward a human or a domestic pet, the coyote should be left alone. In the event of aggressiveness, an Illinois Department of Natural Resources licensed trapper should be contacted to address the problem animal.
If you observe any animal that appears to be injured, sick or displaying aggressive behavior, please call the Hickory Hills Police Animal Control Officer at 598-4900.
Facts from the Cook County Coyote Project
- Coyotes are common throughout most of the Chicago region.
- As a top predator, coyotes are performing an important role in the Chicago region. Increasing evidence indicates that coyotes assist with controlling deer and Canada goose populations.
- Most coyotes are feeding on typical prey items, such as rodents and rabbits and generally avoid trash.
- Coyotes to date do not pose a serious human health risk. In general, the coyote population appears to be relatively healthy.
- Coyotes removed through control efforts or other causes are quickly replaced. Successful management programs also include public education and outside consulting.
- Some types of repellents, such as electronic devices employing lights and sound, may be useful for preventative control of coyotes.
What are Some Steps to Avoid Conflict with Coyotes?
Conflicts with coyotes can be avoided by taking simple precautions or by altering behaviors to avoid confrontation.
- Do not feed the coyotes. Many people unintentionally feed coyotes by leaving pet food or garbage out at night or having large bird feeders. Coyotes are usually not interested in bird food, but bird feeders often attract rodents, especially squirrels, which then attract coyotes.
- Do not let pets run loose. If coyotes live nearby, do not let pets run loose, especially domestic cats. When hiking in urban parks, keep dogs on leashes.
- Do not run from a coyote. When you encounter a coyote, shout or throw something in its direction.
- Repellents or fencing may help.
- Report aggressive, fearless coyotes immediately. When a coyote fails to exhibit fear of humans or acts aggressive by barking or growling in the yard or playground, the animal must be reported as soon as possible to the appropriate officials—usually an animal control officer or police officer.
Coexisting with Coyotes
Some tips on living near coyotes:
- Don’t feed any wild animals such as raccoon or deer, which encourages coyotes as well. Garbage should be stored in secure containers. Do not put meat scraps in compost piles.
- Remove bird feeders and outside pet food containers. Coyotes will prey upon small mammals that are attracted to birdseed and pet food.
- Don’t allow pets to run free and keep a watchful eye on them. Walk dogs on a leash, especially at night. Keep cats indoors at all times. Do not let pets out at night unless accompanied by a person. Don’t leave cat or dog food outside.
- Clear wood piles, brush piles and other potential cover for coyotes. Secure garbage in areas where coyotes can’t access it; keep yards clean of refuse and brush.
- Don’t leave small children outside unattended.
- Reinforce the coyotes’ natural fear of humans by turning on outside lights, making loud noises, throwing rocks and so forth. Be aggressive in your actions. Although the response may not be immediate, eventually the coyotes will flee.
- Consider fencing your yard.
- Encourage your neighbors to follow the same advice.
If you have any questions or concerns, please call the Hickory Hills Police Department animal control officer at 708-598-4900.