SPRING GROVE – At night, residents living in the Sundial Farms subdivision hear coyotes howling from the nearby woods. The howls sometimes wake them from their slumbers.
During the evening and sometimes in the morning, there are sightings of coyote packs in the subdivision that is adjacent to the 2,700-acre Chain O’ Lakes State Park.
This past Sunday morning, Keisha and Chris Malec found two coyotes circling the Malecs’ 2½-year-old Yorkie, Jake, as if the coyotes were preparing to eat. The 6- to 7-pound dog was attacked and killed by the coyotes.
Usually there are two or three sightings during an entire winter.
In the span of a week, there have been at least five coyote sightings, said Carole Lavrisa, who also lives in the rural subdivision.
Fox Lake police officer Jason Baldowsky told neighbors they are not allowed to fire a weapon within the village limits, and reminded the neighbors that it was a residential area.
Chris Malec scared the coyotes away, but they returned about 20 minutes later looking for Jake. The family was able to bury Jake in their backyard, with an emotional note from the Malec’s daughter, Alayna, saying how Jake always cheered her up.
“You know I love you Jake and you know I hate the coyotes,” 8-year-old Alayna wrote.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources does not have statutory authority over coyotes and can provide only technical assistance. The DNR can’t trap the coyotes, spokesman Chris McCloud said.
Trapping and removal of a coyote has to be done by a nuisance trapper, who is licensed by the DNR. The licensed trapper then will have to relocate the coyote, McCloud said.
A coyote can be trapped only if it is damaging property or causing risks to human health or safety.
The subdivision has a picturesque backdrop with a view of the park. Many residents have large lots for a dog to run around in, and only an invisible fence to keep them from going off.
“I consider my dog my property,” Keisha Malec said. “If they [coyotes] come on our property again, we’ll probably try and kill them.”
Peter Meserve is a biological sciences professor at Northern Illinois University.
“Coyotes are great opportunists, and as people have moved further out into the country, coyotes are quick to take advantage of decreased hunting, increased food (garbage, rodents, pets), and increased shelter (sheds, decks),” Meserve said in an email to the Northwest Herald.
“They also ‘hang out’ in suburban driveways while the residents are at work during the day,” Meserve added. “Also, increased suburban development means decreased natural areas, and perhaps natural prey.”
Lavrisa said the howling from the area’s nocturnal neighbors can waken someone from a deep sleep, and that the mammals are capable of taking down deer.
“My concern is for the people who walk this neighborhood,” Lavrisa said.
Lavrisa added that she is especially concerned about small children in the neighborhood. A youngster playing in a backyard might be at risk.
“What’s she going to do when a pack of coyotes surround her?” Lavrisa said.
Neighborhood residents recently have seen packs of up to five coyotes roaming the area at once, Keisha Malec said.
The Malecs have lived in the neighborhood for five years, but this is the first time they’ve seen coyotes.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Keisha Malec said.
Typically, coyotes are afraid of humans, McCloud said.
He recommended keeping an eye on pets because they do make easy targets for hungry coyotes.
If a coyote does come close, people should yell at the animal or throw something toward the coyote to scare it away.
People should not feed wildlife in their area or leave pet food outside.
Shelli Grons has a 50-pound border collie named Otis who was let out one night, but came running back to the house because he was spooked, Grons said.
With the coyote sightings, Grons said she won’t let her dog out by himself anymore, even though he needs room to run and loves being outside.
“I’m not going to take a chance,” Grons said, adding that she has seen as many as four coyotes in a pack. “They probably have been watching the dogs in the neighborhood and when they’re going out.”
Baldowsky was called out to the neighborhood about 9 a.m. Sunday. The neighborhood has a Spring Grove mailing address, but is in the Fox Lake police jurisdiction.
Baldowsky saw one of the coyotes trotting into the Chain O’ Lakes State Park when he responded.
“It surprised me to see them out in the day like that,” Baldowsky said.
He said people should call the police or the Department of Natural Resources if the coyotes appear threatening.
“If they feel the animal is being vicious, call us, and we’ll respond and do what we can,” Baldowsky said.
In the meantime, even though it’s frustrating that residents cannot immediately trap the animals, they are remaining vigilant, forming an informal neighborhood watch, communicating through Facebook about sightings in the morning, and sharing the phone number for the Department of Natural Resources, Keisha Malec said.
“If there are enough calls, hopefully they’ll do something about it,” Keisha Malec said.
Steps for staying safe, if your home is near coyote habitat, include:
• Don’t feed any wild animals such as raccoons or deer, which encourages coyotes, as well.
• Feed pets indoors. If pets are fed outside, clean up any leftover food daily.
• Keep cats indoors.
• Keep your dog on a leash.
• Don’t leave cat or dog food outside.
• Secure garbage in areas where coyotes can’t access it; keep yards clean of refuse and brush.
• Property owners should limit the availability of unintentional food sources, such as bird food, pet food, ripe fruit, and trash.
• Do not let pets out at night unless accompanied by a person.
• If a coyote approaches you, do not run. Yell, stand up straight and wave your arms (the goal is to make yourself appear larger), or throw something at the coyote to scare it away.
Source: Department of Natural Resources and the University of Illinois Extension.