Coyotes in Chicago: What to do when one of them wants to eat your dog!

Coyotes in Chicago:  What to do when one of them wants to eat your dog!
Source: Wikipedia

You may or may not have recently heard on the news or radio about a woman walking her two dogs at dusk in Chicago when she and her dogs were approached by three coyotes.  Typically, coyotes are shy creatures, but are learning to coexist within more urban habitats and are becoming less timid.  According to all the new stories, one of the coyotes approached her dog within a foot or two and was nipping at it.  Luckily, the woman found a break in traffic and was able to cross the street with her dogs and be safe.  But it was obviously a frightening experience for her and certainly for her dogs which were considered to be potential prey by this bold coyote.

My Tibetan Terriers have been barking up a storm lately at night, sometimes for as long as 2 hours.  They are barking at windows that face our unfenced back yard in northern Cook County, and I am now wondering if there are coyotes in our neighborhood, too, as all other reasons for the non-stop barking have been ruled out by me.  TTs (as they are referred to by those of us who are owned by them) are considered to be "sentinel" dogs of Tibet, bred to warn the monks of approaching danger.  They warn by barking ... loudly.

So, going into research mode, I searched the web to see what information I could learn about protecting our animals from coyotes both in urban and suburban areas.  Of interest is the fact that this is a country-wide issue and my search yielded many informative blogs (Yahoo Answers and "," to name a few) and a link to information provided by our own Lake County Forest Preserve, which has the wonderful dogs parks mentioned in a prior post. Coyotes are found throughout the continental United States and North America (see map below).

Coyote Range in North America

 This is what I learned:

Coyotes are typically not dangerous to people, but should not be approached nor should your dog be allowed to approach one.  If a coyote becomes aggressive and does not react fearfully to your presence, it is a sign that it has lost its fear of people and may need to be trapped and killed.  Coyotes hunt alone or in pairs and frequently feed on deer fawns as a food source as well as on feral cats.  They also are known to be scavengers, feeding from messy garbage cans or garbage in plastic bags left out the night before garbage pick-up.  According to the Lake County Forest Preserves information, coyotes cannot tell the difference between their natural prey and pets, and more often view pets as competition rather than prey. A coyote's typical prey is a small mammal.

The Lake County 'fact sheet' states that "the majority of coyotes in our region live as lone animals but some live in family groups ... that work together to bring food back to a nursing mother and to protect their territory but do not hunt in packs as do wolves."  As for preventing unwanted contact with coyotes and how to protect your pets, they suggest the following:

  • Avoiding contact with coyotes by keeping dogs on leash and staying on designated trails;
  • Because coyotes are everywhere in our area, dogs need to be closely supervised, even in our back yards or on the street (I've heard from friends that coyotes will perform an puppy-like play-bows, enticing dogs to come closer to them);
  • Coyotes are not afraid of dogs but are afraid of humans; if a coyote approaches your dog, you need to scare it away;

Suggestions for protecting your pets on your home property include:

  • Constructing a fence around your property that is at least six feet tall;
  • Keeping the area around your home free of food sources;
  • Keeping your dog inside or in a secure kennel outside regardless of time of day;
  • Consider obtaining better lighting around your house for nighttime use;

Suggestions for protecting your pet on a walk:

  • Always use a leash;
  • Carry a stick and noise-maker (can even be an aluminum 'shaker' can or a horn);
  • If possible, walk in areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic;
  • Keep your dog as close to you as possible and head towards an active area;

Suggestions for an encounter with a coyote when walking your dog include:

  • Making eye contact;
  • Yelling or making loud noises;
  • Throwing things at it;
  • Making yourself appear as large and menacing as possible;
  • Never turn your back on a coyote;
  • Using mace or pepper spray (suggested by many FB friends, but this can backfire by people accidentally spraying themselves with it rather than the predator);

It is amazing to me that coyotes have become so fearless and acclimated to civilization that they can now be a menace to our pets, even on our urban downtown streets in Chicago.  The surprise is not that they are there; rather the surprise is the ease with which they may approach people.  The woman who had that unfortunate encounter with the three coyotes used her brains to save her dogs from harm.  And that's what loving our pets is all about.  I sincerely hope that you never encounter a coyote on a walk with your dog, but also hope that some of these suggestions will be of help if you do.


An addendum that was provided to me by Robert Pierce about the Cook County, IL, Coyote Project, established in 2000 to perform an ecological observational tracking study of coyotes in Cook County and their (the coyotes) impact on the urban area of Chicago.  It is a fascinating study of over 10 years duration.  There is a section on management which I encourage everyone to read as well as information about the signature coyote of the project, "Big Mama."




Filed under: Coyotes

Tags: #Chicago, coyotes, dogs, feral cats, pets, wildlife


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  • I live in Wheaton where the coyotes have been a big problem to the point that the city hired someone to trap five or six of them last year. I see them in the field behind our house. Luckily my dogs are big and we have a fence, but it's still good to know they're afraid of humans. Thanks for the info.

  • In reply to annekip63:

    I agree, I have spoke to the mayor on numerous occassions and the village doesn't seem to care. 3 years ago we lost one of our Yorkshire Terriers to a coyote attack in our backyard. My concern is the coyotes are getting more and more comfortable with our urban/suburban settings and eventualy a coyote will threaten kids in the neighborhood. I arrived home from work one day at 230PM and a coyote was lying in my backyard like it owned the place. I went outside to try and scare it off, it looked at me, got up very casually and walked into the neighbors yard and laid back down in the sun. I called the police as kids were starting to get home from school but there was no response.

  • In reply to spyderson7:

    A nonchalant coyote in your backyard must have been terrifying and I understand your concern. In addition to the mayor and police, possibly your county may have a fact sheet on "frequently asked questions." My post drew heavily from Lake County's 4 page document about coyotes. It states specifically: "Coyotes that are seen to be behaving aggressively on district property should be reported to the Ranger Police" and they provide a number. The Lake County Ranger Police number is 847-367-6640. If you call your village about animal wildlife control and the police and they are not as helpful as you would like, perhaps you should call the Lake County number to find out if they can provide a good telephone number in your area to get the help you need. I live in Cook County and pay yearly to use their fenced dog exercise areas and actually have no idea as to whom would be the best resource in our county. That's what we all are paying taxes for, yes?

  • In reply to Sue Yellen:

    Actually, I meant to say that I pay Lake County Park District to use their dog exercise areas. If you live in DuPage county, I'm sure that their park district must have a number you can contact.

  • In reply to annekip63:

    Hi Annie, my pleasure (or pain, not sure how to feel about the topic). Just kind of a reminder to those of us out there who love our pets (both cats and dogs) that there is danger out there. You are so lucky that the city stepped into do something about it. Kudos to Wheaton, IL, DuPage County!

  • In reply to annekip63:

    Hi Annie, I think I didn't respond personally, but kudos do Wheaton IL for taking action and humanely trapping them. Hoping they were released in another State (smile, here).

  • I Annie, it's good to know that they are afraid of humans, but I worry that they are becoming less so. So it's good that you have several large dogs (a deterrent) that will bark and that you have a fence. Glad that the information was useful. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  • I live about two blocks from the incident mentioned on the TV and that's my regular dog walk. I got the shock of my life when I saw that. There have been a few coyotes by the zoo for a few years, and one was sighted last year wearing a collar. Apparently they were put there (or at least that one was) to keep the rabbit population down.
    It's a tad worrying if they're becoming bolder because the dumpsters in nearby alleys are always overflowing.
    My dob looks a bit like them so I'm jus hoping that they'll think she "family" and leave us alone. May have to carry a baseball bat at night though as she's too heavy to pick up and run with.
    Thanks for the information.

  • In reply to Expat in Chicago:

    Glad it was helpful. A part that I didn't include was that coyotes are territorial and will only attack another dog if it thinks it's a threat to their territory, mate, or young (Thank You, Lake County Forest Preserves for the information). I had no idea that they were introduced into Chicago for that reason (rabbit control). What an interesting example of what happens when man interferes with nature. Thanks for responding. And I'm sure that the larger the dog, the less inclined a coyote would be to perceive it as prey.

  • Dob? Obviously I meant "dog". Sorry.

  • "My Tibetan Terriers have been barking up a storm lately at night, sometimes for as long as 2 hours."

    Bad owner, bad!

  • In reply to Animale:

    @Animale, I totally agree .... if you have a good suggestion for me, I'd sincerely welcome it (not joking, here!) Fortunately, our neighbors can't hear it.

  • Well maybe you were trying to scare off the coyotes and maybe it wasn't a whole two hours, but barking means a dog is in distress and needs to be taken care of, whether it's food, water, a social need, cold or heat, or an intruder. A few seconds is about all I allow. It's an alarm. I have neighbors who let their dogs bark way too much. It is not natural and dogs can be trained not to bark, or to bark only in case of an emergency.
    As for Coyotes, small dogs for sure have to be watched. Same as above, pay attention.

  • In reply to Animale:

    Your points are well taken and I appreciate your input. Our dogs are inside dogs and tend to bark mostly at the TV. But you are correct in that a bark, especially the type of bark, can indicate distress or a social need or an intruder. If you know your dogs well enough, you can sometimes understand what the bark means. There are 2 great books written by Turid Rugaas, "Barking, the Sound of a Language" and "On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals" which you may already have. I bought mine at If you want to discuss this further, feel free to email me directly at All the best. Sue

  • Good tips. I don't care for small dogs so my chances of walking one are 0%, but I did wonder how they deal with large dogs. I usually walk my parents' German Shepherd (adult size, a puppy she is NOT). I'll pass the word to everybody I know, especially those who get into the cutesy dogs.

  • In reply to Shamontiel:

    Hi Hubby read up on just this aspect regarding large dogs and am passing to you. Keep dog on leash, no free wheeling. It seems the coyotes are more clever than thought as they will send out one member of the group to entice any dog to play or follow them while a group waits in the distance out of sight to pounce. We're all going to be in trouble if they ever get tools or thumbs 8:)

  • Thanks, Shamontiel for helping spread the word for our pet safety. BTW, it was pointed out to me by a FB friend who also has Tibetan Terriers that coyotes typically nip at other dogs when they are defending their young. I never thought about it, but it makes sense. Nevertheless, we need to figure out a way to coexist with them and have everyone be safe, so the smaller the dog, the more likely it may be perceived as prey.

  • My suggestion to people with small dogs would be to pick the dog up, and then posture yourself at the coyote.

    Another suggestion: hunting stores like the Bass Pro Shop carry high powered flashlights (skinny enough to fit in a coat pocket) that are intended to blind predatory animals when hunting. I'd check with a store rep first, but I have to believe those would work on a coyote too. sounds like common sense, but in a moment of panic a person can get tunnel vision and forget to start by screaming for help. Even if someone runs to your aid but doesn't know what to do to help you, potentially the presence of another person could be enough to scare off the coyote.

  • @dp2144 .... great suggestions. We just bought a flashlight that can attach to a lead. Screaming for help or simply screaming and making noise is also easy to do without any aids other than your voice.

  • Call me radical but perhaps never leaving companion animals outside unattended?

    I lived in the West for many years where coyotes were our neighbors. They are amazing creatures and I certainly don't fear them. That is not to say I don't respect them. I respect fire, water, the weather as well.

    Humans have become so estranged from the natural world that all manner of untruths and fears have arisen. We have suffered great loss by not relishing all of Creation. A wise person maximizes their relationship with Creation and does so wisely.

  • In reply to jkatze:

    I agree. I spend time in the mountains with my dogs but am very vigilant about where they are at all times when outside because of mountain lions and bears that likewise have become acclimated to living in a symbiotic relationship with people. Thanks for your comment.

  • More dogs and cats are killed each year because they are homeless or unwanted.

    THAT is a genuine concern. That is evidence that humans are unbelievably irresponsible. If folks want to get up and arms about dangers to companion animals, why not attack what is a genuine problem and a disgrace to the nation?

  • In reply to jkatze:

    Very good point about dogs and cats being killed because they are homeless or unwanted or euthanized in shelters for the same reason. That is why people need to think carefully, and then think carefully again before making a 10-20 year commitment to an animal. But ... once you have your pet, you then need to protect it. Both are important.

  • Of course it is wise to have a form of protection when dog-walking. Go to the dollar store and buy a cheap can of hair spray. Go to the hardware store and select from an array of substances in spray cans many of which spray a distance.

  • Do you actually have permission to use Nation Geographic content on your blog? If not, you are violating copyright.

  • In reply to etribune:

    mea culpa, National Geographic

  • In reply to etribune:

    It is my understanding (perhaps mistaken) that if you use a source information and cite specifically where it came from and attribute it to that source, then no copyright laws are violated. The only information used from National Geographic (their online content) were the photos; the other content (also cited) was not from National Geographic. If I need to be updated on this aspect of blogging, please feel free to email me directly at and direct me to the specific statutory information. Thanks.

  • In reply to etribune:

    Hey relax for crying out loud. I appreciate the writers research and concern enough to share. Merry Christmas scrouge.

  • In reply to royaltrudo:

    Thanks. And I appreciate your input as well as your husband's and it's worth repeating because it's true: Keep dog on leash, no free wheeling. It seems the coyotes are more clever than thought as they will send out one member of the group to entice any dog to play or follow them while a group waits in the distance out of sight to pounce. We're all going to be in trouble if they ever get tools or thumbs. I agree and this actually happened to a neighbor of mine many years ago. Horrible for the small dog who died.

  • In reply to etribune:

    Are you sure? Fair use of copyright on the internet permits some use of others' works even without approval.

    Uses that advance public interests such as criticism, education or scholarship are favored -- particularly if little of another's work is copied. Uses that generate income or interfere with a copyright owner's income are not.

    I lifted this from ....BwaHaHaha

  • In reply to theredmenace:

    Thanks for the link. I've bookmarked it for myself. I appreciate the time and energy you took to both look it up, provide the link, and post it. Sue

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    There has been an on-going research study of Coyotes in the Chicago area:
    I found a coyote when I came out of Binny's on Marcy St. about 8:30 pm recently.

  • In reply to Robert Pierce:

    Robert, I just looked at your link. It's fascinating, a lot of information. I wish I had found it before I wrote this piece. Hoping that others reading the comment section will take a look.

  • In reply to Sue Yellen:

    Hi again, Robert, thank you for the link. Fascinating. I updated the post to add an addendum to let people know about this project of 10 years duration. Interesting reading.

  • Robert, thanks for providing the link. Had no idea it existed. Very interesting about your coyote 'encounter' but hopefully it was one which is shy around people. Best, Sue

  • It's not the 4 legged Varmits you should be afraid of, it's the 2 legged criminals with ILLEGAL guns. Legal guns in the proper citizen's possession would reduce crime in Chicagoland immediately !.
    Without a doubt !.

  • @Jimthein, unfortunately, you are very correct. 2-legged people with illegal guns are much scarier to me than 4 legged coyotes! However, with my luck I would accidentally shoot myself (if my dogs didn't accidentally shoot me).

  • "The surprise is not that they are there; rather the surprise is the ease with which they may approach people."

    People retreat from them, do nothing to scare them off, and you're actually surprised at their lack of fear?

  • Hi Nate, I'm guessing I must be naive because before I wrote this blog, I never would have thought about scaring them off; rather I would have wanted to get away ASAP. Now, at least I have some tools, so if I'm ever confronted, will shout my head off. Hoping I never need to use them. Your comment is well taken; I shouldn't be surprised. Thanks for posting.

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    Sue Ellen very nice post. Coyotes can be scary. I see them in a field next to my job. It is ironic that I went to school at Cal. State San Bernardino Coyotes.

  • Thanks for taking the time to read it, Michael. I am now in Colorado and now on the watch for mountain lions (lol). Always worried about the safety of my dogs!

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