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Suburb Debates Coyote Culling Plan

By Prescott Carlson in News on Feb 17, 2010 10:30PM

Photo by farlane

If the coyote population in the suburbs were simply content with grabbing a toasty sub once in a while, the western suburb of Wheaton might not have decided to hire a trapper to catch and kill -- er, "euthanize" -- the coyotes wandering around their village. Citing safety concerns, Wheaton officials want to cull the number of coyotes, despite the fact that the only victims so far are pets, not humans. Councilman John Prendiville was a dissenter, telling the Daily Herald that if "a particular animal attacks or actively threatens humans, [he] would take action against that animal... Revenge for the death of a pet is not sufficient reason for killing coyotes."

Over 100 people attended a city council meeting last night to weigh in on the issue, and they were split on being for and against culling the coyotes. One resident was quoted as saying her children were afraid to play outside in fear of an attack, while another said she was "disappointed" in the decision and asked that her tax dollars be used "for humane methods of animal control" such as an awareness program. Councilman Phil Suess wants to hunt down the native animal because he says it's "just not acceptable" that Wheaton residents can't use their backyard out of fear for their pets.

But while Fido may be at risk, coyote attacks on people are extremely rare. Stan Gehrt, an assistant professor at Ohio State University who has tracked and studied a few hundred coyotes in the Chicago area, says that "even though they live in urban areas and figure out how people work, it doesn't mean they're necessarily becoming more aggressive toward us." He also stated in an OSU publication:

"But most coyotes aren't thrilled about being seen by people," he continued. "Urban coyotes are more active at night than their rural counterparts, so humans don't see a lot of their activity. In many cases, coyotes are probably doing us favors that we don't realize -- they eat a lot of rodents and other animals that people don't want around."

One resident claimed that the "net effect of culling will be an increase in coyotes, because females reproduce less often when there is an overpopulation," and some experts back her up.