PRINCETON — Coyotes may not be getting more aggressive, but they do appear to be getting braver and heading closer to residential areas.
In recent weeks, WQAD News 8 reporter Chris Minor reported on two separate incidents in Rock Island in which neighborhood dogs were attacked by coyotes. The Chicago Tribune has reported more than 2,000 coyotes live in Cook County with some of those living near neighborhoods and industrial facilities.
On Monday, Bureau County Animal Control Officer Scott Robbins said he wouldn’t say there are more coyote sightings this year than in other years in Bureau County, but coyotes do seem to be getting braver and coming closer to more residential areas. He has received several calls from concerned residents from all around the county, mostly from people living on the edge of communities.
As far as the safety of family pets, Robbins said cats and kittens are the easiest prey for coyotes, as well as very small dogs. Coyotes are not aggressive to people and try to stay away from them.
To safeguard pets, Robbins said his recommendation is for people to make sure they don’t leave dog or cat food outside and to make sure their garbage cans have secured locked lids. Like raccoons, the coyotes are looking for food to eat, he said.
In an interview last week, Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Scott Wright also stated he couldn’t say there has been an increase in the coyote population. But coyotes are a very intelligent animal which adapt very well, which might be the reason there seems to be more coyotes reported in towns, he said.
On the positive side, coyotes do help control wild animal populations like deer, mice, snakes and squirrels, “about anything that doesn’t eat them first,” Wright said. Coyotes are scavengers which means they also like to eat road kill. Unfortunately, coyotes will also take domesticated animals, like dogs and cats, he said.
If people live in areas where coyotes have been seen or are suspected, his recommendation is for those people to make sure they don’t leave any garbage or scraps out that would draw the coyote to the area. Also, don’t allow pets to be outside unsupervised for long periods of time, especially overnight.
As far as controlling the coyote population, Wright said there is a year-round hunting season for coyotes and also a trapping season in the fall, but people must have a hunting license or trapping license. If a coyote is trapped, it must be destroyed, he said.
As far as safety concerns for people, Wright said coyotes are not aggressive toward people and are pretty seclusive. But even if they aren’t aggressive toward people, coyotes are still wild animals and should never be approached or tried to be kept as a pet, he said.
For additional information on coyotes, Wright recommended readers learn more at the Living with Wildlife in Illinois web site at http://web.extension.illinos.edu/wildlife.
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