FOX 32 NEWS - Coyotes have been living in Chicago for decades, but wildlife experts say we're going to be seeing more of them than ever before.
Nine years ago, a coyote wandered into a South Loop sandwich shop. He made national headlines and was eventually released into a rural setting, where it was believed he'd be better off. But researchers now believe that coyotes have adapted quite well to city life.
“Takes very little to keep a coyote happy,” said Chris Anchor.
Anchor is a wildlife biologist with the Cook County Forest Preserve. He's been studying urban coyotes for 16 years. Anchor estimates there are two thousand coyotes in Cook County, and while that number is likely to remain stable, we'll be seeing them more often. They've become much less shy than their country cousins.
“In the urban setting, people basically leave them alone. So these animals are intelligent enough to realize that humans are not a threat and they basically ignore us,” Anchor said.
With winter approaching, coyotes will become more visible as they hunt for food. And if you're really interested in getting a glimpse of one, your best bet might be on Northerly Island, or on the museum campus along the lakefront.
One coyote den was discovered in a parking garage near Soldier Field. They also like cemeteries and rail yards. Several have been sighted outside Wrigley Field. They move mostly at night, feeding on smaller wildlife, including mice and rats, which is why some lakefront residents said they welcome them.
“Some of my friends who have tiny dogs may not like them, but the majority, I think the majority of us like coyotes because they do keep the rat population down,” lakefront resident Anita Balodis said.
Coyotes have occasionally attacked and killed small dogs. Anchor says they pose little danger to humans, unless people start feeding them.
“Most of the attacks, the documented attacks on humans, have occurred in areas where people were actively feeding the coyotes and the coyotes normal behavior patterns break down and they start looking at young children as potential food,” Anchor said.
Anchor says winter is the best time for spotting coyotes because the leaves are off the trees, grasses have been knocked down, and they're easily spotted against a snowy background.