Coyotes

CoyoteMost go unnoticed, but our community is perfect habitat for the infamous Coyote.   Thankfully, most interactions are uneventful but as we have encroached on their habitat, their behavior has evolved to be far less fearful of our activities.  In nearly all cases, if you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone. 

Breeding peaks in mid-February and goes until early March.  With a gestation period (pregnancy equivalent) of approximately 60 days, most litters of pups are born between late April and early May.  From February to mid-March mother coyotes are actively seeking out den sites.  By 3 months the puppies are learning how to hunt.  While it's an incredible sight, it may not be what you want to see on your property.  So what can you do to peacefully co-exist?  Here's a few simple precautions:

  • Keep your yard clear of clutter such as piles of brush which make suitable dens.
  • If you have an older home with a foundation that might allow wildlife to get under, consider heavily screening off any openings or access points.  This will also keep other unwanted wildlife like skunk and raccoons away.
  • Motion lights:   Install bright motion lights to startle away coyotes.   A fenced yard should be at least 6' high. 
  • Closely supervise when your dogs are outside.   An adult coyote will either see your beloved pooch as a potential rival in their territory, or as food.   Coyotes look much bigger than they actually are; usually between 20-40 pounds with a max weight of 55.  One of the telltale signs of coyote actively living around you is looking for their scat.  They'll poop in the middle of trails or easily seen places to let everyone know it's their turf.  Looks like domestic dog poop but typically has fur and bones which are easily seen. 
  • If you see a coyote near you and it's too close for comfort, making loud sounds including screaming and holding your ground usually works. Usually a scream/yell and a couple of steps towards the animal is enough to send them bolting.  If you have an unusually inquisitive coyote, it can't hurt to keep a 4' pvc pipe, cane or some other object you can use if needed.  Just remember coyotes very rarely attack humans; it's almost unheard of.
  • Keep garbage in a proper and secure receptacle and keep all pet food indoors.  Also, if you have bird feeders, keep those tidy as too many seeds on the grass or pavement will attract rodents which will attract coyote. 
  • It's always better to learn how to cohabitate with the coyote you have hanging around.  Most lead nomadic lifestyles and move around a lot. They rarely stay in the same place for more than a few months unless they have a litter.   If you drive one out you'll simply open up the territory for another coyote to come in.

If you'd like to learn more about coyotes, stop by the Wildlife Discovery Center and visit their two resident coyotes "Met" and "Mena" who will show you why these animals are so amazing and should be appreciated for all they do to keep our ecosystems healthy rather than vilify them

These are magnificent animals that can be safely enjoyed from a distance and remember, any animal that feeds predominantly on rodents is a friend of ours! If you feel like you need to address a concern about a coyote near you contact Rob Carmichael, Curator of the Wildlife Discovery Center, at carmichr@cityoflakeforest.com.  Obviously, if it's an emergency simply dial 9-1-1. To learn more about coyotes click here.

Coyote Frequently Asked Questions
Is it legal to hunt, kill or poison coyotes on my property?
It is illegal to harm native wildlife and special permits would need to be acquired from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  Scientific data has suggested that this approach is NOT effective because once you get rid of one coyote, another one will fight for that territory and that could be a much more difficult animal to deal with.  It's far better to learn how to live peacefully with the coyotes around us.  Thankfully, most of the sightings happen in the spring as that's when we see them most active.  Plus, using poison baits is an extremely cruel practice where animals suffer needlessly; even pet dogs and cats have accidentally found these baits with lethal results.  

Why is that coyote following me and my pet dog?
Coyotes exhibit a behavior called "escort behavior or escorting".  Just like our pet dogs, coyotes are naturally curious about everything around them.  When you think you are being followed or stalked, you really aren't.  The coyote is simply keeping an eye on you to see if you leave its territory.  These behaviors rarely lead to anything more than seeing the coyote and with some simple tactics described on the web page, you and your pet will be safe.


Our thanks to Rob Carmichael for his assistance with this page.
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