Baxter, a yellow Labrador retriever, lunged against its walking leash and barked when it spotted a coyote nearby. The coyote stood its ground. Ron Marini quickly coaxed Baxter away and toward home. Marini has since taken a walking stick while strolling with Baxter around the neighborhood.
Ron and Amy Marini expect to see rabbits, deer and raccoons but not coyotes in their backyard just a few hundred feet south of the busy Shooting Park Road in Peru.
Too close for comfort
The couple said they have heard coyotes howling just north of their neighborhood. They spotted the first one in their backyard a year ago. This winter they have seen as many as three, making them reluctant to let their dog or cat outdoors, they said.
“It didn’t bother me with only one in the backyard,” Ron Marini said. “I don’t have a problem with a single coyote but in time they’re getting used to seeing people.”
They often see the coyotes in a wooded ravine behind their home, they said.
“They come right up into our backyard now and they are unafraid of humans,” Amy Marini said. “They don’t run when we yell at them, ‘hey, get out of here, get out of here,’ and they just look at you.”
Coyotes that migrate into cities can become more tolerant of humans.
“These things are getting more and more brazen all the time,” said Sgt. Hank Frazier, Illinois Conservation Police.
Reports of coyotes in Chicago have made plenty of news recently.
“It’s not just Peru, it’s everywhere,” said Gary Wind, animal control officer in La Salle County. “They’re here to stay and we just have to learn how to live with them.”
But complaints have not increased, Frazier said.
“So far it’s not something we have every day,” Frazier said. Wind says he gets a coyote complaint call once every 3-4 months.
The Marinis had no luck calling authorities to have the animals removed. Residents can try contacting a nuisance animal removal service but it might be difficult to get them to remove a coyote, Frazier and Wind said.
Residents outside of cities can shoot or trap nuisance animals but not within city limits. Ron Marini, an avid outdoorsman and waterfowl hunter, said he doesn’t want to set traps or use poison because of pets in the neighborhood.
Coyotes have held the top carnivore spot in Illinois for 150 years since wolves and mountain lions were driven out. Today the DNR estimates a state population of 30,000 coyotes and an average of 7,000 coyotes trapped or killed each year. This is the breeding season for coyotes, with pups born late April to May.
Other animals, such as raccoons and deer, might be perceived as nuisances but coyotes engender fear among some.
“People think they’re going to get attacked,” Frazier said.
Human injuries or deaths caused by coyotes are rare. A study published in 2007 found 187 reliable reports of attacks on humans, with most (157) in California, Arizona and Nevada and many linked to people feeding coyotes. In Frazier’s 24 years on the beat in northern Illinois, he has never encountered a reported coyote attack on a human, he said.
There are many reports of coyotes injuring or killing dogs and cats. If there are coyotes around, watch pets and don’t leave them unattended outside, Frazier and Wind said.
However, a study of coyote diets in the Chicago area found remains of cats in only 2 percent of samples, with rodents, deer, fruit, rabbits and birds comprising the bulk of their diets.
In Wind’s eight years controlling animals in La Salle County, he had one report of a coyote attack on a human but this was unconfirmed and he suspected feral dogs. Coyotes also are blamed for livestock deaths in Illinois when feral dogs are the more-likely culprits, according to the University of Illinois.
Discarded food attracts coyotes and other animals. Frazier once responded to a complaint about raccoons on a porch. Upon arrival he spotted the raccoons next to the crime-solving clue: a half-dozen bags of household garbage, he said.
If coyotes act tame or get close, do not touch them. Wild animals carry diseases that can be contagious to pets and humans, Wind said.