Aurora residents on lookout for coyotes

March 1, 2012 8:35:01 PM PST
Aurora residents are being warned about coyotes roaming their neighborhoods. About two dozen sightings have been reported since the first of the year.

The number of calls to Aurora Animal Control are on pace to nearly triple the amount from last year. Wildlife experts say it may be the result of increased awareness of coyotes as well as a more abundant food supply because of this mild winter.

Tim Gilhooly and his dog "Ginger" live in Aurora's coyote central.

"Any small dogs, keep them close to you," said Gilhooly. "I'm always on the lookout. And this is like a thoroughfare that they run up and down through."

This mild winter has turned normally frozen ponds nearby into coyote watering holes.

And the many ducks and neighborhood dogs can be a tantalizing snack.

"I'm a big guy. I could try and save my dog, but only if it's within an arm's length," Gilhooly said.

In the past month, Aurora Animal Control has been getting calls on a near daily basis, the sightings often occurring along the jogging trails, open fields, and former industrial sites on Aurora's southeast side.

"February and March is the breeding season for coyotes. They're out looking for mates. They're defending their territory," said Phillips Park Zoo's Randy Johnson.

"It's always in the daylight, a lot of times early morning, a lot of times on my way to work," said Aurora resident Michelle Medina.

It is not just Aurora.

Just last week, a coyote was spotted near U.S. Cellular Field. It was eventually tranquilized by Animal Control officers.

Two weeks earlier, another coyote, also on the South Side, was cornered after a two-hour chase.

In Aurora, officers have been using air horns to scare the animals away.

"To get them afraid of people, get them more leery of coming back to that same area, because they're going to get things thrown at them or shouted or chased," said Susan Knight, of Aurora Animal Control.

Only a quarter of area coyotes live to the age of 3, with cars being the leading killer. Those that survive but are too injured to return to the wild are cared for at places like the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn until they can be released.

"You've got all kinds of development going on," said Johnson. "They still need to survive. There's no place else for them to go."

If you encounter a coyote, the best advice is to make some noise to scare it away. Running away could prompt it to chase after you. You should also not keep pet food, especially birdseed, outside your home.

There have been no reports in Aurora of people being injured but a dog was killed by one last November.