The past few years Chicago news organizations have covered the aftermath of coyote sightings and some attacks on house pets. But now: a coyote at high noon, lumbering through a close-in Chicago suburb. In Riverside-- and many other communities cursed by coyotes-- what happens when one is reported to authorities? On Wednesday, the I-Team found out.
At first it looked like a scrawny dog off its leash. But up closer, it was coyote ugly-- mangy and looking for food.
The I-Team was just passing through Riverside when we spotted this beast, walking from house to house, gnawing on scraps of whatever was on the lawn. There have been numerous reports of coyote packs here trying to attack house pets-- including these dogs in January that were chased into the house just in time for the owner to close the door.
"They were snarling. You could see all their teeth and the hair standing up on their back as they were clawing at the door," said Roger Nelson, Riverside resident, in January 2013.
That was at night. A coyote venturing into a neighborhood during the day is considered more serious and potentially agressive.
As we followed this coyote, we called Riverside Police, where a dispatcher informed us that the village has no animal control department but does chart coyote sightings. Indeed, this map shows several sightings in the area where we were-- among 264 calls to police in the first half of this year.
A heavily-wooded suburb, Riverside this year created a "coyote policy" that instructs residents on how to deal with the menace themselves-- even distributing a home audit checklist of what to do and not do.
The head of the Cook County Coyote Project has said coyotes seen in public are usually not there for long.
"If they're not successful at moving away and hiding, they eventually get removed. So their success is an indication of how well they are able to stay hidden and keep a healthy respect and fear for people," Dr. Stan Gehrt, Cook County Coyote Project, said in February 2011.
On Wednesday night, a Riverside Police official told ABC7 they deployed an officer after our phone call, but the coyote wasn't found. They describe the coyote issue as very delicate, explaining that some residents don't want the animals killed or trapped and that it would be difficult for officers to shoot them because it is a populated area. If a coyote was sick and a threat, police say they would take appropriate action.
Statement to I-Team from Riverside Police Dept:
"The Riverside Police Department does not have a dedicated animal control officer. When the Riverside Police Department receives a call about a coyote sighting a Call for Service is generated and an officer will respond to the area of the coyote sighting. Most of the time when the officer arrives at the location the coyote is already gone, if the coyote is still there when the officer arrives the coyote will usually run away from the officer. Some of the coyote calls are delayed by a few hours with residents just wanting to advise the Riverside Police Department that they saw a coyote. The calls have applied to the residential areas as well as the numerous forest preserves surrounding the Village of Riverside.
The Village of Riverside and the Riverside Police Department does have a coyote policy and we are currently working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Cook County Forest Preserve District and various private animal trapping companies to come up with a plan on how to deal effectively and humanely with the coyotes in Riverside. This is a very delicate issue because some residents do not want the coyotes killed or trapped, others would like the coyotes trapped and relocated. The Village of Riverside is looking at which option is the best option for its residents. It would be difficult for the Riverside Police Department to try and shoot at the coyotes due to the number of houses in the area and the possibility of the round travelling beyond the coyote. If the coyote was extremely sick and a threat to people then the Riverside Police Department would take the appropriate steps to protect the residents.
The Riverside Police Department has received information that people are feeding the coyotes intentionally or leaving other pet food outside, which the coyotes are then eating.
As of today's date the Riverside Police Department has received a total of 264 calls regarding coyote reports throughout the Village of Riverside. We have not had any reports of any pets or people being mauled by a coyote this year so far."