Coyote Encounters & Prevention Measures
Reported sightings of coyotes have increased in the Chicagoland area.
The Burr Ridge Police Department is releasing this safety information in the event a verified sighting should occur. The coyote has adapted to living on the borders of urban areas because it is no longer a hunted animal. It has lost its fear of humans because of this. As trees are torn down coyotes cling to whatever woodland areas they find. The coyote habitat has become fragmented so the area where coyotes are often sighted may seem unusual.
They are sometimes seen during daylight hours predominately from dusk to dawn. Coyotes are often described as having a German Shepard-like appearance. They have long-thin legs, tapered muzzle and long pointed ears. Their fur ranges from dull yellow to gray. Adult males weight approximately 25-40 pounds while the females are smaller. The peak of their breeding season is late February to early March. In April and May, the pups are born with an average of 5 to 7 in a litter. Scientists have identified 11 different kinds of vocalizations, making them great communicators. Although they normally live in packs, they can live alone, in pairs or in a temporary family group.
The majority of the coyote diet consists of small rodents, rabbits, and mice; however, they sometimes do eat birds, reptiles, fish, and deer carcasses. This may be why they wander into yards. Spilled birdseed attracts animals which then attracts the coyote. Areas with abundant tall grass offer the coyote not only protection but also a large food source because of the smaller wildlife that co-exists there. When their preferred food source is scarce, they may eat berries, insects, and even garden vegetables. Pet food left out at night not only feeds raccoons and opossum but their hunter as well, the coyote. In this sense, the coyote maintains a control on the wildlife population.
Small dogs left unattended and off leash can fall victim to a coyote but soon discarded when it is discovered they are not part of their regular diet. Unfortunately, because of the dog’s size and/or health, they may incur serious injury. Their chance of survival does increase if the animal is found shortly after the incident. Too often, because the animal was unattended, the owner may not even realize it is missing or where it was left behind.
Prevent Coyote Encounters
- Like other wildlife, we need to understand they are living next to us because their natural habitat is disappearing.
- The leash law is enforced not only because it is a village ordinance, but also for the safety of your pets. It not only protects them from encounters with wildlife but from other domestic animals as well. We often have incidents of dogs being bitten by other dogs running loose.
- Do not provide food sources for the coyotes. Do not attempt to feed coyotes. Keep trash securely contained. Do not leave any outside food for pets. Clear away any brush or wood piles to deter smaller wildlife from residing there. Consider fencing in yards. Install motion light sensors. Animal proof decks and porches to prevent raccoons, opossum, skunks and other small wildlife from residing there. This is like a buffet table for the coyote which makes him return to this yard over and over again.
- Teach your children to respect wildlife as well as not approach them. Do not leave small children unattended. Unfortunately, a child may perceive the coyote as a dog and may think of petting him.
- Never leave smaller pets unattended. Larger dogs may be perceived by the coyote as a threat. Always have a responsible person walk your leashed dog. If a coyote does approach, act aggressively, make loud noises, throw rocks, spray with a hose, etc. Although the response may not be immediate, the coyote will leave. If the coyote approaches, it is out of curiosity.
- It is unrealistic to think we can rid our urban areas of coyote, raccoons, opossum, skunk, or other wildlife. Even if 5 or 10 coyote are removed, there are countless others that migrate or are born every year. Studies conducted by DNR and the Cook County Wildlife District have shown that coyotes attempt to return to the habitat they were removed from.
- We, as intelligent human beings, need to learn to live in harmony with all our wildlife friends and realize that we have displaced them.
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 Burr Ridge Police Department at 630-323-8181 or 911.