That changed this week during a birding trip Engel, of Uptown, was part of just outside of Chicago. A friend and colleague, Amanda Zeigler of Red Hill Birding, spotted a den filled with as many as 10 pups.
"It felt like we were peering into the private lives of a coyote family," Engel said. "I've seen coyotes lots of times around Chicago and Cook County while I'm out birding, but this was the first time I've seen a den."
Zeigler first saw a female coyote, which Engel said "was obviously lactating."
"Then we noticed pups playing in the bushes and that led us to find the den," Engel said. "The pups were surprisingly tame, and as long as we were quiet and not moving much they didn't pay us any attention. ... It was a pretty extraordinary experience."
According to Chris Anchor, senior wildlife biologist for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, coyotes are becoming bolder near humans.
While they're not likely to attack, they also won't run away, Anchor said.
Notably, coyotes do not hibernate in the winter and instead require more activity because they have to find more food, he said.
Estimates place Cook County's coyote population at 1,500 to 2,000, and the animals are found in every city neighborhood, Anchor said.
Some of those coyotes travel as much as three miles a day, mostly at night and typically in straight lines, Anchor said. During the day, they try to find elevated areas with high grass.