The Skokie Coyotes: What, Why, & Howl

The Skokie Coyotes: What, Why, & Howl

By Gabrielle Feliciano, Staff Writer

In recent years, coyotes have been seen more and more throughout Skokie and its surrounding areas, with some sightings spanning as far as Gurnee, IL. As sightings only rise, locals are asking one question: Where did they come from, and why?

To answer the first half of the question, the coyotes didn’t come from anywhere. In fact, the coyotes have been here from the start. According to the Forest Preserves of Cook County, coyote sightings in Illinois began as early as the 1700s. However, as a result of the growing population, the coyotes had to move out of their old habitat and into a new one.

Biology teacherĀ Thomas Jodelka says, “Coyotes are native to the United States, so they have always ‘been here’ depending on your definition of the phrase… My first guess is that due to increased urbanization, the ‘wild’ portions of the Chicago area are becoming smaller and smaller, which is forcing coyotes to use more urban areas, thus leading to increased sightings by humans.”

In addition, the coyotes have long been used to human and human activity. Humans and coyotes are at the point of coexistence, with coyotes even becoming top predators in the surrounding ecosystem.

“…[the coyotes] are here because they are a natural part of our ecosystem. Since we have eliminated all other large predators such as wolves, bears, and mountain lions, coyotes are the top predator in our local ecosystems,” Jodelka said. “Every ecosystem should have a top carnivore, and ours is the coyote, because there is simply nothing else to fill that role.”

In fact, humans have reason to worry if the population of coyotes begins to decrease, as coyotes are, as Jodelka says, a part of the surrounding ecosystem. Coyotes, having also long been used to coexisting with humans, are here to stay.

“Since the coyotes have been able to acclimate to human activity and are actually doing well, I would be alarmed if their numbers started to drop,” Jodelka said. “That would signal that something has changed in the ecosystem and would require investigation. Did a new top carnivore take their place? Are we changing the environment even more to the point where they can’t survive here any longer? These are the questions that would need to be answered.”

Upon encountering a coyote, civilians are told to move, with caution, away from the area of encounter. After all, like most creatures, coyotes are just as wary of humans as they are of them.