Coyotes, wolves in native American culture, and cougars have all been in the news lately in the Midwest and in Illinois. There is not a week that goes by that a coyote is not a nuisance in some Chicago suburb. Wolves, who have long been extirpated from the state, have been spotted in Illinois this year. Although it has been over two years since the cougar was shot in a Roscoe village neighborhood and no cougars have been spotted in Illinois since, there have been cougars sightings in nearby Wisconsin and even Indiana.
The coyote has made a remarkable comeback to the region. Even though there have been many celebrated nuisance reports concerning the coyote, especially the death of Jessica Simpson’s maltese Daisy, for the most part these animals are a welcome addition to the Illinois ecology as they help keep down the deer population by taking fawns and also help control the Canadian geese population.
Research by Dr. Stanley Gehrt has indicated that the urban coyote diet relies less on human sources than one would think. In a study of almost 1,500 specimens of coyote scat taken between 2000 and 2002 it was shown that only about 3% had any link to humans. Only 1% of the scat had remnants of domestic cats and 2% had remnants of trash. Surprisingly there were no dogs, but Dr. Gehrt said that sometimes coyotes will kill dogs out of a predatory instinct to take out competitors for food.
The timber wolf was thought to be extinct from Wisconsin as of the early 1980s. However, there is now a healthy population in Northern Wisconsin. This population maybe making forays into Illinois. There were several sighting in Northern Illinois early this year including what could have been a wolf caught on a trail cam. Wolf sightings are difficult to verify as many are mistaken for coyotes. However, those with an experienced eye for the two animals know the difference. Wolves are twice the size of coyotes. A coyote is normally smaller than a golden retriever whereas a healthy wolf can grow to the size of a great dane.
Cougar sightings are on the rise in the Midwest. In the past two weeks a cougar has attacked both a cow and a horse in Juneau County, Wisconsin. A trail cam has picked up a cougar photo in both western Wisconsin and southern Indiana this year. Both the Wisconsin DNR and the Illinois DNR have had meetings on how to manage the possible and eventual return of the animal to the respective states.
The Illinois Department of Resources wants to know if you have seen a cougar or a wolf, or any strange animal not usually seen in the state. Check this website out and report a sighting.
This website is also very informative on how to deal with nuisance animals other than the ones discussed in this article. If you have had problems with an ornerary animal whether it is a coyote or a Canadian goose, this website gives information on how to cope and when to report. It is also possible to ask an Illinois wildlife biologist a question and even get a bird or animal identified.