When I was growing up in Chicago, there were no urban coyotes, In fact, there were no populations of coyote or coyote hybrids in Illinois. At one time, the Eastern coyote extended its range to Illinois. But, human development in the form of farms and cities and towns gave less and less habitat to coyotes. They were pretty much hunted to extinction in Illinois. Michigan and Wisconsin experienced the same thing. There was a population of grey wolves somewhere on Isle Royal in Lake Superior but that was it. And, no coyotes.
Now (2016), reports place 2000 coyotes just in Chicago itself. These are urban coyotes and rarely seen. They eat rats and garbage as well as Canada Geese. A half-century ago, when the expressways were being built, the land had been torn up and denuded of brush. Brush harbors animal life and acts as cover for animals. They have to have it. Now, the foliage has returned along the major roadways and creeks and rivers. Maple and oak trees, willows and brush are everywhere. Along the Chicago River which passes through the city, there are Great Blue herons, beaver, red foxes, deer and coyotes.
I first saw a coyote trotting down a side road along highway 90 in Schaumberg ten years ago. Just last summer, three adult coyotes came bounding down the path where I stood out in the open at a Forest Preserve in Des Plaines. When they saw me, they peeled off and silently entered the brush. Since then, I’ve seen many solitary coyotes trotting along without a care in the world.
But the one I want to tell you about appeared about two years ago in a small state Park in Lisle. I had just driven into the park about 6:15 AM. The sun was up. It was Fall and the trees were still green. I parked facing several apple trees and soon a coyote came and began eating the apples that had fallen on the ground. I could see the juice flowing down out of its jaws as it feasted on the sweet fruit.
I was maybe fifty feet from him and the grass was cut short so I could get a clear unobstructed view of the largest coyote I had ever seen. For months now I have been thinking: “Was it a wolf? No, I’ve seen many wolves in zoos and in films. This animal was more coyote than anything. But, it was taller than the coyotes I’d seen in Wyoming as a researcher at the university of Wyoming Research Station in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was big and thick through its haunches but its rear end was narrower.
Our local PBS station has recently shown a documentary on the “coywolf”, a hybrid wolf -coyote. I am certain that is what I saw. This is the new “Eastern Coyote.” These huge predators mate for life and live four times longer than coyote. They adjust to everything in their environment and are very intelligent. This is a hybrid between an Eastern wolf and a standard coyote.
They easily slipped into the city I call home. Now they are among us, running down our streets, padding through our yards and wandering wherever opportunity leads them.