Don’t cry wolf over coyote sightings
By Jeff Ward For The Courier-News February 28, 2011 10:10PM
This coyote was plowing through a field when photographer Rich Fisher captured its image in January. Lake County residents learned about the country's largest coyote study in Grayslake . Fisher is an officer with the Riverwoods Nature Photographic Society. Sun-Times Media~File Photo
Updated: June 29, 2011 12:21AM
Elgin, I knew you’d redeem yourselves. I can never stay mad at you for very long. Of course, my beloved Campton Hillians — the ones who wave at me on my bike with more than one finger — never let me down. This time, we’re talking about coyotes — or, more specifically, your reasonable response to these compelling critters.
You already may have heard the sad saga of Coco, an 8.5-pound Campton Hills Yorkiepoo that was attacked and seriously injured by a coyote on Feb. 14. The good news is that Coco is on the road to recovery and soon will be leading a normal doggie life.
Unlike the fearful Wheaton folks, who responded to similar attacks a year ago by bringing in professional coyote hunters, you all seem to be taking this natural fact of life in stride. Not only have you remained calm, but Elginite Bob Ruffer actually tried to save a coyote suffering from mange that he ran across in his Elgin-area barn. As he put it, “He’s just a dog that needed help; I was hoping that he’d make it.”
The reality is, even if Campton Hills followed Wheaton’s extreme example, it wouldn’t work. Shoot one coyote, and another takes its territory. Shoot an alpha female, and the other females start breeding, increasing the population even more. Relocate them, and they’ll find their way back. Even the haters have to have a grudging admiration for the coyotes’ tenacity.
The thing is, peaceful coexistence really isn’t that difficult. Manager Trish Burns at Geneva’s Peck Farm Park was happy to provide a crash course in human-coyote relations:
Be sure your garbage is stored in thick plastic bags and placed in sturdy receptacles with locking lids. That leftover meatloaf nobody wanted is a quick and easy meal for a coyote.
If you feed the birds like I do, be sure to remove the refuse from beneath the feeder regularly because it attracts the rabbits and squirrels that coyotes find particularly tasty.
It’s no accident that attacks on unattended dogs tend to occur in February, because it marks the official opening of coyote mating season — which means they hunt with particular fervor. That said, it’s never a good idea to leave little Fifi out alone any time of year. Even if Fifi turns out to be a 70-pound golden retriever, she may be no match for a coyote that regularly fights for its territory.
Leaving Fifi unattended on a chain is like serving up a coyote TV dinner. Once tethered, she can no longer make a mad dash for safety.
Even better than regularly booting little Fifi out into the backyard, take her for a walk armed with a cowbell to fend off any unwanted coyote interest.
Which leads me to the main complaint I hear about coyotes — their abject brazenness. But whose fault is that? Unsecured garbage and unsupervised dogs are like rolling out the coyote welcome wagon. In the last four years, I’ve encountered four coyotes in my subdivision while running, and each time I’ve taken off after them like my pants were on fire. And each time they’ve summarily taken off.
Were you faced with a 6-foot-tall, 185-pound, bald, semi-shaven guy wearing highlighter green running garb, bearing down on you at full tilt, arms spread, emitting a rebel yell, you’d flee as well. While this wouldn’t work well in open space, I haven’t seen a daylight coyote in our subdivision for over a year now.
Coyotes aren’t stupid. They don’t want to have to deal with some overzealous, fast-moving, middle-aged nutcase intent on instilling a fear of human beings. They prefer easy prey like little Fifi trapped inside her invisible fence.
I also asked Trish if my alternative strategy of “marking your territory,” as depicted in the 1983 movie “Never Cry Wolf,” was really effective. She said it might work, but couldn’t say for sure because she’d never tried it. I will admit employing that tactic is a bit easier for men.
Lastly, Trish said, “It’s not uncommon to see coyotes, and spotting one doesn’t automatically mean they’re a threat to you, your children or your pet.” The truth is, unless a coyote is sick or injured, they generally tend to avoid any human contact.
Of course, some might claim Elgin’s calm coyote demeanor comes from having to face down the roaming packs of pit bulls, but I’d like to think it’s that general Elgin rationality and Campton Hills common sense that, on most occasions, can’t help but come shining through. Get a few beers in me, and I might just start proclaiming, “I love you, man!”