Coyote sightings raise hackles, calls for understanding

January 30, 2017

Nicole Woods and her husband Rob opened the back door of their Columbia Estates home to let their Maltese poodle outside. As the dog sniffed around the yard, the couple looked away for just a second. When they returned their gaze to the small dog, Rob got a glimpse of two shadowy figures in the tree line. Before he could react, two coyotes emerged and lunged at their pet. Through frantic screaming and panic, Nicole and her husband managed to scare the wild canines away. They refocused their attention on their injured dog, who was running back to the house in shock.

“She was visibly bleeding, and she had two big teeth marks that were deep in her neck. Her eye was all bloody around it,” said Nicole Woods.

The thought of a beloved dog or cat being hurt by a wild animal is a fear that lurks in every pet owner’s mind. With the increase of coyote sightings in DuPage County and surrounding areas, these dangerous encounters are becoming increasingly familiar. However, the sightings do not directly correlate to an increase in coyote population. According to the Urban Coyote Research Program of Cook County, the coyote population is between 1,500 and 2,000 and has not changed much over the past few years. The frequent sightings may simply be the result of a diminishing habitat for the canines, and an increase in the resources available in residential areas. Especially during the February breeding season, coyotes can be seen both day and night.

Regardless of personal experiences or opinions, one fact remains true: coyotes are here to stay. For all the negative press, the coyotes serve an important function in the wild community. It is essential for the public to become more educated. Understanding issues are the first step to solving them, but fear can be a very powerful force. In this instance, it can cause residents to have false perceptions about their environments, especially when they feel their loved ones are in danger. Willowbrook Wildlife Center naturalist Stephanie Touzalin has had experience rehabilitating injured coyotes and believes that most people have false images of the animals.

“The way the media works is that we always hear about the attacks… people don’t realize that there are peaceful encounters that happen every day,” Touzalin said.

Coyotes are essential to our environment. As one of the few top predators in DuPage County, they help control the large rodent population. Based on a study conducted by Paul Morey, small rodents make up 42% of their diet, followed by fruit at 23%, and occasionally deer (22%) and rabbit (18%). Furthermore, coyotes are adaptive creatures, and often change their behavior to thrive in unique environments and habitats.

As dangerous as wildlife may seem, there have been no reports of coyote attacks on humans in all of DuPage County. In fact, humans can have disastrous effects on the canines’ population. Between 40-70% of deaths for urban coyotes are the result of vehicle collisions, creating a life expectancy of only three years. As Touzalin was working with coyotes, she noticed their behavior with humans was far from aggressive, but much more shy and timid.

“They kind of back away and avoid eye contact,” she said.

In order to prevent coyote encounters, Touzalin recommends keeping an eye on pets and never leaving them unattended outdoors. Furthermore, eliminate any potential food sources, including garbage cans and pet food. As a final tip, she believes a simple clap or shout should frighten the wild animals away.

Coyotes are a natural part of the Naperville wildlife and cannot be eliminated. In order to thrive in our county, wild canines and humans must adapt to living in the presence of one another. Although there may be the occasional danger to the pets of residents like Nicole Woods, the environment would not function properly without coyotes.

“I do have an appreciation for wild animals. I don’t think we should necessarily get rid of them all, but I think that there should be precaution and measures and maybe, even more education,” said Woods.

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  • M

    Mama MulliganFeb 21, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Great article! -Ur Mum

  • J

    Judy LopezFeb 4, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    Excellent article! Very informative.

  • C

    Carol DuganFeb 1, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    Very nice article. Welll written. Informative and well researched. Coyotes do help us out. Pets including cats should not be allowed out alone.

  • D

    Dorothy BattleFeb 1, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    great piece! People need to understand that coyotes serve a purpose and we are the ones who need to take precautions if we want to keep our pets safe.

  • S

    Sue HartmannJan 31, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Excellent article Elise. My home backs to Seager Park & I occasionally see or hear our coyotes. They are beautiful animals. I like them because they keep our rodent & rabbit population down. One pair I’ve seen a few times look very healthy – I call them Anthony & Cleopatra! We have a golden retriever & keep a close eye on her when she’s outside. We would never want our dog or the coyotes to come to any harm. They are our neighbors. We do have people in our small subdivision who let their dog & cats run lose – not good. And another neighbor whose small dog was lose at night was attacked by two coyotes & had to be euthanized. Coyotes can’t be blamed for doing what comes naturally – pet owners need to be more responsible.
    Thank you for your clear explanation of the merits of having coyotes in our environment.

  • M

    Mike MarekJan 31, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Good article. Thank you.

  • L

    Linda ThomasJan 31, 2017 at 7:37 am

    Thank you Elise Mulligan for a very informative story. I also feel we just need to educate ourselves more about the coyote and also,watch out for our animals.

  • T

    Troy ValloJan 31, 2017 at 6:05 am

    It is my humble opinion that the coyote, has little to fear from humans. And it primarily the same for us. Cats, Dogs and possibly very small unattended children are at risk. Don’t worry about the coyote. It will just fine. Here is a little something to think about. Five years ago my friend spotted a Wolf, five miles outside of the Dells.