Illinois’ coyote population continues to grow. How to avoid conflict, protect pets

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·3 min read

Coyote attacks on toddlers in Dallas and Huntington Beach, Calif., have recently made headlines, though wildlife officials have said such attacks are exceedingly rare.

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, coyotes are quite common across the state and have been increasing in population over the past few decades.

Surveys conducted by the Illinois Natural History Survey between 2013 and 2017 turned up population estimates between roughly 54,000 and 110,000 coyotes, but those figures only represented a fraction of the coyotes in the state.

So what do you do if you see a coyote in your yard? Can coyotes hurt you? Are they dangerous to pets, and what are they scared of? Read on for answers to these questions and others, along with tips for peacefully co-existing with these canine critters, which play an important role in keeping rodent populations under control.

Are there a lot of coyotes in Illinois?

According to the Chicago Tribune, which looked into a coyote attack on a 6-year-old boy there in 2020, coyotes are so common it is legal to hunt them almost year-round, except for deer hunting season and in urban areas like Chicago.

In 2017, the Illinois Natural History Survey estimated 107,000 coyotes were killed by hunters throughout the state, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Are coyotes dangerous?

Coyote attacks on humans are very rare. According to the U.S. Humane Society, more people are killed by stray golf balls and flying champagne corks each year than are bitten by coyotes.

The attack in 2020 on the boy in Chicago was believed to be the first by a coyote on a human in the area in at least a decade, Kelley Gandurski, executive director of Chicago Animal Care and Control, told the Tribune at the time.

Coyotes can carry diseases like distemper, parvovirus, rabies and mange. These diseases can be spread to dogs, cats and livestock, but only the latter two are transmissible to humans, the IDNR said.

That said, coyotes can sometimes kill or injure your pets if given the opportunity.

Luckily, these situations can be avoided by taking precautions, like moving your pets into fenced areas when you know coyotes are around.

How to guard your pets from coyotes

There are several steps you can take to keep your home from becoming a draw for coyotes.

  • Feed your pets inside, or if you do feed them outside, tidy up any leftover food immediately.

  • Don’t leave small pets like rabbits, cats or small dogs outside your home unsupervised, especially at night when coyotes are most active.

  • If you have a bird feeder, make sure the area is kept clean and fallen seeds can’t attract rodents, which in turn attract coyotes. Use a squirrel-proof bird feeder if you can. Not only will your seeds be safe from thieving squirrels, but coyotes have been known to feed on those when no other rodents are around.

  • Don’t leave trash and litter out. Again, coyotes may eat garbage, but they’re much more likely to eat the rodents attracted to scraps.

What do you do if you see a coyote in your backyard?

First, don’t run if a coyote approaches you. Yell, stand up straight and wave your arms — the goal is make yourself look bigger than you are. You can also throw things near it to scare it away, but try not to injure the animal.

According to the IDNR, you should also teach your children what to do in this situation. That means teaching them to throw their arms up in the air and yell “like a monster” to scare it away.

If all else fails and you have a particularly persistent coyote lingering about your property, you may need to call in a professional to safely remove it.

The state agency recommends contacting your local nuisance wildlife control operator, rather than trapping the animal yourself. They will trap and remove the animal typically for a fee.

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