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Chicago's Coyotes Are Becoming Bolder, But You Still Shouldn't Fear Them

By Justin Breen | November 15, 2016 5:17am | Updated on November 18, 2016 10:35am
 A coyote saunters along the St Charles Air Line at 16th Street Tower in Chicago's South Loop.
A coyote saunters along the St Charles Air Line at 16th Street Tower in Chicago's South Loop.
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Flickr Creative Commons/Jonathan Lee

CHICAGO — Chicago's coyote population will likely be more visible to the city's residents as they're becoming less timid and more likely to travel along major roads.

Coyotes can be found in every city neighborhood, said Chris Anchor, senior wildlife biologist for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and a key official with the Urban Coyote Program since its inception in 2000.

Anchor said coyotes in Chicago's city limits — there is no estimate of the city population, but within Cook County, there are between 1,500-2,000 coyotes, he said — are becoming bolder near humans. That means while coyotes almost will certainly not attack, they are also less likely to run away.

 A coyote photographed in Chicago.
A coyote photographed in Chicago.
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Flickr Creative Commons/Ron Perrillo

"They tend to just ignore people now," Anchor said. "What's changing is their behavior toward people because they're not hunted or trapped. Instead of fleeing, they'll just stay."

Anchor said the program has been tracking about 15 coyotes based in Chicago with cellphone collars, which provide immediate locations for the coyotes. Those coyotes, Anchor said, have been traveling along Lake Shore Drive, the Dan Ryan Expy. and railroad tracks between Downtown and Jackson Park.

Some of those coyotes travel as much as three miles a day, Anchor said, mostly at night. During the day, they try to find elevated areas with high grass. They'll eat anything they can get their jaws and paws on, including ground squirrels, rats, mice and rabbits.

Those coyotes and others in the city will become more visible as the weather cools because they're more likely to stand out in snow and coyotes are more active in the winter. Coyotes do not hibernate in the winter and instead require more activity because they have to find more food, Anchor said.

Anchor stressed several times that humans should not feed coyotes. Attacks are extremely unlikely but every documented case in the area has been a result of feeding coyotes, actively or covertly.

The city's coyotes, Anchor said, travel in straight lines as opposed to more rural coyotes, which have circular or ovular ranges.

"It's incredible when you start looking at the distances that some of these animals are moving and how they make it work," Anchor said.

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