When I lived in the US, I spent most of my time in the northeast and never once saw a coyote there. (Though John tells me there are a good number of coyotes out in the Chicago suburbs for sure.)
When I left back in the 1990′s, I recall hearing about brown bear populations increasing rapidly and getting closer to cities. Even then, I never remembered hearing about bears walking through Independence Mall or Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
While attending the SXSW conference earlier this year, I stayed with friends outside of Austin and their property backed onto a green area. The coyotes would walk up to the backyard fence and taunt the dog, probably hoping to get an easy meal. One of their cats had mysteriously disappeared a few years earlier – they later discovered bits of fur in the bushes not far from the fence.
Neighbors also talked about coyotes walking away with dogs and cats, and while there, I saw a few coyotes on a drive through the neighborhood one night. For me – one who loves animals – it was impressive and fun to see them walking along their evening path around the neighborhood. Yes, there are risks for small animals, though I hope the city doesn’t overreact and kill them off like they’re doing in some western states.
Maybe people need to be a little more cautious with their pets, but nature rebounding is not a reason to panic. If Chicago is like other big cities, gun violence is probably a lot more of an issue than a handful of coyotes wandering the streets.
UPDATE: Some of the readers noted additional stories that say the coyotes were let loose in Chicago on purpose, to help eat rats and mice. Huh.
FURTHER UPDATE: A cousin of John’s just had her small dog eaten by a coyote in the Chicago suburbs, it was in her backyard, safely she thought. There have been other reports in the news recently about coyotes killing dogs in the Chicago are. This little experiment doesn’t sound like it’s working very well.
While they are masters of discretion, every so often a coyote will break the rules and make contact with humans. The most famous encounter happened in 2007 when an otherwise calm coyote walked into a Quizno’s sandwich shop in downtown Chicago, and apparently confused (or hot), hopped into a refrigerated case and sat quietly in the fruit juice section.
“It wasn’t aggressive at all,” restaurant manager Bina Patel told the Chicago Tribune. “It was just looking around.” Police came and moved that coyote to someplace safer. Probably a park.
They have a picture of the coyote in the juice fridge.