CITY HALL — Urban coyotes keep the city's rat and goose populations down, but pose little threat to Chicagoans, experts testified before a City Council committee Thursday.
Yet the panel ultimately took no action on a proposal to protect the animals from being collared by the city's Department of Animal Care and Control.
"Leave them alone," said Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), lead sponsor of a proposed ordinance calling for the city to formulate a "coyote management program" that would stop chasing them and start tolerating them.
"The presence of coyotes is not in fact a problem, it's a benefit," Hopkins said. He pointed to "an explosion of Norway rats" the city is experiencing, adding that coyotes prey on rats as well as Canada goose eggs. "When coyotes are removed from an area, the goose population explodes," he said, and along with it goose droppings.
Stan Gehrt, of Ohio State University and the local Urban Coyote Research program, testified that coyotes have not attacked a human in the 16 years the program has been monitoring them in Cook County.
"The majority of them are trying as best they can to avoid us at all costs," Gehrt said.
Yet he added, "Coyotes are part of the landscape," and city residents have to get used to them.
"The coyote population has continued to increase," he said. "Life for coyotes in Cook County is really quite good."
Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) said coyotes are commonplace in her ward.
"I see coyotes probably on a weekly basis," she said, drawn by the marshes and open grasslands of the Southeast Side.
"I wouldn't say ignore them," Gehrt said. "I'd say be aware."
Hopkins said his ordinance would ask Animal Care and Control to formulate a response to residents calling to report a coyote, adding, "The default response is going to be leave it alone."
Yet that won't be formally implemented just yet. The "subject-matter hearing" produced no vote on Hopkins' ordinance.
"We're planning on doing something more robust" in the coming months, said Ald. George Cardenas (12th), chairman of the Health Committee.
Hopkins accepted that with hopes of quick action.
Until then, Gehrt testified, city residents should refrain from feeding coyotes. According to Gehrt, the only coyote attacks on humans he'd seen confirmed were in Denver and Los Angeles, where they'd grown "habituated" to contact with humans. He said the Urban Coyote Research study was ongoing, and that it was looking for signs of local coyotes becoming "habituated," in which case the hands-off approach might need to be reconsidered. There has been no sign of that yet, however.
Gehrt acknowledged coyotes are a danger to feral cats and, occasionally, house cats allowed outside, but he said attacks on leashed dogs were extremely rare and tended to occur in the spring when a dog might be walking unsuspectingly close to a coyote den with pups, in which case they'll defend their turf.
To the good, however, Gehrt testified coyotes were a natural drag on the number of white-tailed deer, serving to minimize the number of deer collisions with cars.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: