Coyotes have adapted to big city living

By Elisa Shoenberger

There are 3,000 to 4,000 coyotes living in the Chicago area, according to Stanley Gehrt, professor at Ohio State University. And they can be found across city, even in Grant Park and Graceland Cemetery.

“They are finding ways to use all parts of the landscape in most parts of Chicago,” Dr. Gehrt said. Coyotes make use of green spaces, such as cemeteries and golf courses, but also may curl up in bushes during the day and people might not notice them. 

Their population began increasing in the 1990s, but numbers have leveled off in the past ten years, according to Gehrt.

Some residents could be concerned about a predator living in Chicago. But the number of problems has been low, only a few incidents per year, said Seth Magle, Director of the Urban Wildlife Institute at the Lincoln Park Zoo. “Ninety-nine percent of these coyotes are really good at not drawing attention,” he said.

Coyotes are good at finding places to avoid humans. Golf courses are great because they aren’t used much during the winter, Magle said. One coyote even had a den of pups in Soldier Field’s parking lot in 2014. The best time to see the animals is at sunset in cemeteries like Graceland or Rose Hill in Uptown. 

Occasionally, a coyote’s behaviour is unpredictable, like the coyote who walked into a cooler at a Quiznos downtown restaurant in 2007. But that’s unusual, Magle said, likely the result of some strange interactions between humans and the animal. When not hiding from humans, coyotes hunt rabbits and rodents, which is great for keeping those populations down.

The animals have made other interesting adaptations. Gehrt’s research found some coyotes look both ways before crossing the road, which is necessary in busy traffic areas. Through direct observation and cameras on the coyotes themselves, scientists have seen them observing traffic and adjusting their crossing strategies. 

The Urban Wildlife Institute has a scientist citizen project called Chicago Wildlife Watch in which people help scientists gather data on animal patterns. There are remote motion-sensitive cameras set up throughout the city. People can access the photos and tag animals in photos to help scientists gather data

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