Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Coyotes in Cook County
Nature Bulletin No. 2
Forest Preserve District of Cook County -- July 31, 1969
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Superintendent of Conversation

COYOTES IN COOK COUNTY

One winter night, a Forest Preserve Ranger heard the yapping howl of  some animal that made his hair stand on end.  A few days later, a farmer  in the Sag valley saw what appeared to be a wolf lope across a road.   Finally, the ranger, concealed within sight of a faint path apparently  used by wild dogs or foxes, shot a coyote.  The little bunch of black  bristles at the base of its tail, covering a scent gland beneath the skin  identified it as being of the wolf family.  The animal was sent to the  Illinois Natural History Survey, at Urbana, where it was pronounced to  be a prairie wolf (also known as the "brush" wolf).  In the west it is  generally known by its Spanish name: coyote.

That same winter the rangers shot four other animals that were  obviously part coyote and part dog.  Coyotes, which were common here  in the early days, may eat a few pheasants and quail, and some rabbits,  but their main diet consists of small rodents such as field mice and  gophers.  Wild dogs however, and the cross-breed of dogs and coyotes,  are clever, cruel, silent killers.  They, and the common house-cat that  has gone wild, are a terrible menace to all wildlife.  Some heartless  people dump unwanted dogs and cats out into the forest preserves.  If  these do not starve -- and most of them do -- they become savage  hunters and killers.  Therefore the rangers have orders to shoot them on  sight.

They Palos area offers ideal den locations and hunting range for  coyotes.  In that hilly section of Cook County, 23 miles southwest of the  Loop, the Forest Preserve District owns more than 9,000 acres  extending from Archer Avenue (Route 4-A) south to 143rd Street and  from old Kean Avenue west to Sag village.  This area is wild and  largely forested.  Running east and west through the center of it, lies the  Sag valley in which was built the Calumet-Sag canal to connect  Calumet Harbor in Lake Michigan with the main Sanitary Drainage and  Ship Canal in the DesPlaines River Valley.  Apparently the coyotes,  and many other animals, have their dens in the high ridges of rock on  both banks of these canals -- rock excavated from the Niagara limestone  that lies close beneath the ground surface.

The coyote has learned to outsmart man and to stay out of his sight and  gun-range.  Rarely seen or heard-of for many years, they have gradually  spread back through Wisconsin into northern Illinois.  They are the  most wary and cunning of all our wild animals, keen of sight and smell,  and amazingly swift.  They are so wise that only the most experienced  trappers, wearing boots treated to conceal the man-scent, after tracking  them for days to learn their habits, sometimes succeed in trapping  coyotes.  Big steel traps are used, handled with special gloves, carefully  concealed beneath the grass or leaves around a sapling which is sprayed  with scent from another coyote.

One of the Forest Preserve men, grading a hiking and bridle trail with a  big power-driven grader, glanced up to see a coyote standing not over  300 feet away.  This one was apparently curious and perplexed by the  big machine with its purring motor.  The scent of the man was  overcome by the exhaust of the engine.  But when the operator stopped  the grader and got off, that coyote went away from there like an arrow.   He has seen plenty!

There have been no sightings or reports of coyotes in the forest  preserves in the past fifteen years


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