Chicago set coyotes loose on the streets to hunt for rats

In the book "Rats," Robert Sullivan details the extraordinary and sometimes comical lengths to which municipalities throughout history -- New York in particular -- have gone to in an attempt to control the archetypal urban vermin, which thrive in areas of dense human population.

Still, it seems a rather desperate throwback to frontier-style husbandry for a major American metropolis to unleash sharp-fanged predators to roam freely through its streets to contain the growing rat menace. But that's what the city of Chicago has done with its latest, innovative effort in rat control: the coyote solution.

The city's program evidently came to light when numerous concerned citizens reported seeing a coyote running down one of the city's main drags, weaving in, out and around passing vehicles. But the city's animal welfare department told a local media outlet that there was nothing out of the ordinary about this at all.

"He's not a threat ... he's not going to pick up your children," Brad Block, a supervisor with the Chicago Commission on Animal Care and Control, said. "His job is to deal with all of the nuisance problems, like mice, rats and rabbits."

Block explained that the canine predator in question was part of Cook County's urban coyote project, which turns the animals loose in high-infestation neighborhoods. He added that coyotes are typically afraid of humans and are outfitted with GPS devices so that local officials can monitor their whereabouts.

Which, we suppose, means that the cattle in area stockyards can breathe a sigh of relief.

(Photo: AP)