Saturday, January 27, 2007

Suburban Coyotes

A couple of days ago, Kristi posted some pictures of some mule deer that showed up in her Boulder, Colorado backyard. It reminded me that we have our own wildlife here in Chicago-- that deer occasionally work their way along railroad tracks into the city, where they take up temporary residence on someone's lawn. About ten years ago, I actually saw one of these deer, walking on the railroad tracks across Foster Avenue, near Pulaski.

Increasingly, coyotes are being spotted here, in Chicago proper and the suburbs. Today's Tribune has a front page article about one guy, Rob Erickson, who has been making a living trapping and sometimes killing coyotes that have killed housepets. Coyotes have been caught in a number of suburbs, like Arlington Heights and Glen Ellyn, and blogger Vikki, a former Chicagoan, pointed out that she spotted one when she lived here. A few days later, a coyote, maybe the same one, was caught in Lincoln Park Zoo.

According to this article this is a phenomenon across North America. The article says:

  • Coyotes are intelligent and extraordinarily difficult to trap, or even spot

  • Urban (and suburban) coyotes are keeping the Snow Goose population in check by stealing eggs out of their nests, reducing the Snow Goose population's annual increase from the 10 to 20% it was running, to 1 to 2% a year

  • Scientists have trapped and put tracking collars on over 200 coyotes in the Chicago area

  • Urban coyotes can cover 50 square miles in a night

  • That urban coyotes generally live much longer than their rural relatives

  • That many people are unintentionally feeding coyotes-- that they often eat food left outside for pets (are you reading this, all the idiots who leave bread out for the pigeons in Welles Park?)

  • That coyotes pose no threat to humans-- that in fact, they strive to avoid contact with humans

  • That there are no parts of the Chicago metro area that they didn't find coyotes living in

I saw an article in Chicago Magazine a couple of years ago about this, but couldn't find it in their archives. It stated a lot of what this article stated, and pointed out the futility of trapping and/or killing coyotes-- they are territorial, and a new coyote just moves in on the vacated territory.

Roadrunner was not available for comment.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

We have lots of wildlife here as well. Our street is a couple of blocks away from a large wilderness park and one morning last winter I saw six mule deer walking down the middle of our street. It was the most amazing sight I have ever witnessed in the suburbs.

We can hear the coyotes often at night and I encountered a couple in the park, but as you say, they avboid contact. Although there are a few people who are getting all up in arms because a couple of pets have been killed by them. I would be heartbroken if my cat were killed as well, but I like to think she has the smarts to stay out of situations like that. And that is the price you sometimes pay when you live in the Rockies.

Erik Donald France said...

Yesterday a young student wondered if she'd seen an otter in polluted Lake St. Clair. Another student assured her it was a dead dog. We did some research and decided it might have been a muskrat or an otter, alive. There was a coyote loose in Grosse Pointe last year and people panicked and brought in a SWAT team -- but Wile E. Coyote apparently escaped unharmed.

GETkristiLOVE said...

I lived in Phoenix for eight years and oddly enough, I once saw a coyote out in the desert, and a roadrunner at the same time.

But the coyote took no interest in the roadrunner, much to my amazement, and my whole embracement of TV watching was shattered with the thought that cartoons don't depict true life.

Alasdair said...

As you might guess, here in Walla Walla there's wildlife aplenty - deer, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, tons of hawks, owls, the usual, plus the occasional moose.

I love urban wildlife, especially when it confounds the authorities. I vaguely recall some fish and wildlife guy saying that even with aggressive trapping, you could only get about half the coyotes in any given area. "And those are the dumb ones," he added.

I guess cities are a special evolution lab for everybody; seems like a good opportunity for science teachers to me...

Bubs said...

I see a few coyotes every year, usually along Central by Oakton Community College, or along Ballard near Rand Road in Des Plaines. I've also seen them along Northwest Highway and near Rand and Schoenbeck in the northwest suburbs. There was a family of them in Maryhill Cemetery in Niles a few years ago, but they seem to have moved on.

Dave said...

My neighborhood has a lot of wildlife. Recently I've seen two very large chickens, a family of racoons, and a bum peeing in his shoe.

Anon. Blogger said...

I live on the Sonoran Desert... north of Scottsdale, which is north of Phoenix. There are packs of coyote everywhere. Last year they were 'coyote ugly' - real skinny - and the rabbits were EVERYWHERE. This year they are filled out, and there are fewer rabbits. It's interesting to see the food chain balance out the populations. Cats are common prey, so the outdoor ones are either young and smart, or they aren't around anymore.
Other common wildlife: javelina and rattle snakes. The desert is not for sissies!

lulu said...

My friends used to live by the Deer Grove Forest Preserve in Palatine and they couldn't let the dogs out in the yard without standing guard over them because of all of the coyotes. There are wild chickens who live in the forest preserve along Peterson. And wasn't there a mountain lion or something that was trapped under a cap outside of the Art Institute a few years ago?

vikkitikkitavi said...

In LA, the coyotes like the parks, the canyons, and the hills. Out in the flatlands of the valley our kitties don't get eaten like they do in other areas.