Chicago, IL

Experts explain why there might be more coyote sightings around Chicago this winter

Jennifer Geer

Watch out for your pets. Forest Preserve officials from Dupage County warn there is an increased chance of running into coyotes this time of year, as the young are leaving their parents and searching for new territory

There is a good chance people in the Chicago area will be seeing more coyotes from now until February, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County warned the public in a news release this week.

“Young coyotes are looking for a place to call home, yet most areas are already occupied. This forces them to move around in search of unclaimed territories,” said Forest Preserve District ecologist Dan Thompson.

Experts say another reason for increased sightings is there is less vegetation available during the winter months, causing the coyotes to expand their territories to find food. Additionally, people may notice them more because their fur stands out against the snow.

What to do if you spot a coyote

Coyotes can be found everywhere in Illinois, in rural, suburban, and urban areas. Because coyotes are critical to the ecological balance of the Chicago area, we have to learn how to live peacefully with them.

Coyotes are generally shy and usually will not approach you, however, if one does, WildlifeIllinois.org suggests the following steps to avoid a conflict with a coyote:

  • Never run from a coyote.
  • Don't follow the same advice as you would for a stray dog. Instead, you should, "yell, stand up straight, and wave your arms." You want to make yourself appear larger and threatening.
  • If the coyote continues to come towards you, throw something at it. You don't want to harm it but you are trying to scare it away.
  • Teach your children this advice and have them yell, "like a monster" at the coyote.
  • If you see signage warning you away from an area due to coyotes, avoid the area. Coyotes will protect their young aggressively when people come near their dens.
  • Alert your local police if a coyote is exhibiting aggressive/problem behavior.

How to keep your pets safe from coyotes

The experts at the Dupage Forest Preserve suggest keeping cats indoors at all times.

To keep your dogs safe:

  • Keep dogs on a leash.
  • Do not leave dogs outside unattended. Coyotes can jump and climb fences or dig under them, so having a fenced yard does not necessarily keep coyotes out of your yard.
  • Pick up small dogs when you're on a walk if you spot a coyote.
  • If you see a coyote on your walk with your dog, take a different route the next day. Coyotes often follow the same routine each day.

Coyotes are vital to local habitats

Some may consider coyotes to be nuisance animals, but they are critical to keeping the ecological balance in Illinois. They keep the population of smaller animals, like rodents, under control.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area.

Chicago, IL
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