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The Coyotes Among Us

By Chris Bentley in News on Sep 21, 2011 8:40PM

Lincoln Park Zoo director Kevin Bell says there are at least 1,000 coyotes living in Chicago, according to Chicago’s CBS News 2. Stan Gehrt, an Ohio State University researcher who studies Chicago’s urban coyotes, puts the number north of 2,000.

That’s within typical population density for the beasts in the wild. But it’s between 1,000 and 2,000 more than most Chicagoans might expect.

Canis latrans’ Windy City residence is relatively new, but not without its high-profile incidents. The animals have been known to wind up in some interesting places, including the Loop. In 2007, a coyote wandered into a downtown Quizno’s and leapt into a drink cooler. Last December, the city rescued a frostbitten coyote dubbed “Holly” from an ice floe drifting into Lake Michigan.

Gehrt told NPR in 2009 that he’d been following one family of coyotes who had made their home near a retention pond next door to a post office:

“There were literally hundreds of people walking a few feet away from an alpha female coyote without ever knowing it,” he says.

Tracking programs show the animals are based around patches of green space like parks and golf courses. They hunt mostly at night, picking off goose eggs, rats and roadkill. Mmm. But they do menace the occasional pet dog. Officials in the suburb of Wheaton voted to control the population by euthanizing coyotes last year.

Coyotes adapt well to new environments, and experts say a decline in the wolf population (due largely to hunting) allowed them to flourish in the Chicago area. Now a new threat calls them prey: traffic. Three-quarters of Chicago coyotes die before the age of three — cars are the biggest killer, according to a Time magazine article.