Coyotes are a common wild animal in northern Illinois. Usually they reside in wooded areas; however, they occasionally enter residential neighborhoods.
What do coyotes look like?
Coyotes, which are part of the dog family, have pointed ears, yellow eyes, a slender muzzle and a drooping bushy tail with a black tip. They are usually a grayish brown with reddish-colored fur behind the ears and around the face. A study by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s Willowbrook Wildlife Center reports that coyotes in DuPage County average about 25 pounds, though their heavy coats may make them look larger.
What to do if you encounter a coyote
- If you encounter a coyote, shout, clap or throw something in its direction. Acting aggressively helps re-instill a fear of humans in coyotes.
- Anyone can call 9-1-1 if they observe any wild animal behaving in a threatening manner. Police officers will respond.
- Or, contact the Willowbrook Wildlife Center’s 24-hour automated phone line for advice at 630-942-6200.
How to Deter Coyotes
While coyotes are valuable in decreasing the rodent population, their presence in populated areas can be minimized. Coyotes can become a nuisance when they have easy access to food in residential areas, such as pet food or garbage. To discourage their presence:
- DO feed pets indoors or promptly remove dishes when pets complete their meal outside. Store bags of pet food indoors.
- DO clear brush and dense weeds from around property. This deprives rodents of shelter and reduces protective cover for coyotes.
- DO use trash barrels equipped with tight clamping devices on the lids, which will prevent spills should they be tipped over by large animals.
- DO try to educate your friends and neighbors about the problems associated with feeding coyotes. If you belong to a homeowner’s association or neighborhood watch, bring up the subject during one of the meetings.
- DO NOT feed or provide water for coyotes or other wildlife. This practice abnormally attracts coyotes and promotes increased numbers of rodents, birds, snakes and other creatures that can provide major portions of the coyote’s natural diet.
How to Protect Pets
- Keep small pets (cats, rabbits, small dogs) indoors. Don't allow them to run free at any time. They are easy prey. Some coyotes hunt cats in residential areas.
- If you leave your pet outside in a fenced area, consider a four-foot fence with a roll bar on the top of the fence.
- Dogs should be brought inside after dark and never allowed to run loose. This is especially important during mating season, which is February through April.
- DO NOT leave domestic pet food outside. Wildlife will soon depend on it
Typical coyote behavior
- Coyotes live in prairies, brushy areas and wooded edges, but not in heavily wooded areas. They often live or travel along waterways.
- While many coyotes live in packs, they usually travel and hunt alone. If you see a coyote, it will usually be alone.
- Coyotes are nocturnal animals, but they may be visible during the day, especially in the summer.
- Coyotes typically mate in February or early spring. During mating season, coyotes – especially males – may be more visible. It is especially important to keep pets on a leash during this time.
What do coyotes eat?
A coyote’s diet mainly consists of small rodents, deer, rabbits and fruit. However, they will take advantage of the most available prey. They can be attracted to garbage and pet food. Coyotes can also be attracted to birdfeeders because the birdfeeders attract rodents and squirrels.
Why coyotes attack
Coyotes may attack outdoor domestic cats for food or because they are viewed as a competing predator. It is less common for coyotes to attack small dogs or medium- to large-sized dogs. Dogs are usually attacked when they are not accompanied by people. Attacks on larger dogs mainly occur during mating season, which usually occurs in February through April.
Signs that coyotes are present in the area
- Coyotes may or may not howl, bark or whine.
- Their paw prints are very similar to dog prints, but the prints usually only have two claw marks in the front of the print.
- Coyote scats (feces) are rope-like and typically filled with hair and bones. Coyotes often leave them along trails as a means of communication.