By Bob Uphues
In the wake of a pair of coyote attacks with the past month, Village Manager Peter Scalera last week announced that he and Police Chief Thomas Weitzel are crafting a policy for dealing with the wild canine inhabitants.
In addition to an educational pamphlet for residents, the response will include formalizing how village employees, such as police officers and public works staff, should handle interactions with coyotes.
"The policy is really more of a 'how we work to ensure the safety of our residents and pets,'" said Scalera. "It's always going to be this way because of our proximity to the forest preserves and the river, so we have to find a way to cohabitate."
A resident of the 100 block of Addison Road reported that her small dog had been attacked by a coyote on Dec. 29. That dog died a few days later of injuries it received.
Then on Jan. 25, a resident of South Herbert Road reported that four coyotes attacked three of his dogs, who escaped inside the home before the coyotes reached them. The resident said the coyotes chased his dogs all the way to the back door of the home, clawing at the door. He drove them off, he said, with a pellet pistol.
The new village policy will likely instruct village employees to provide written reports regarding interactions with coyotes, their behavior and locations "to help identify areas that we have issues with," said Scalera, noting that he has reached out to county and state wildlife officials for guidance. He has also been in contact with officials from the city of Wheaton, which adopted a detailed coyote policy in 2010.
The policy includes information for residents about coyote behavior, how to discourage their presence and information about state laws governing coyotes, which are a protected species.
"I think the biggest impact it had was educating the public on coyotes and the importance of hazing," said Michael Dzugan, Wheaton's assistant city manager who led the effort on that town's policy.
"Hazing" is the term for deterring coyotes by making loud noises, such as yelling and clapping hands, or actions — from waving your arms at the coyotes to throwing objects like rocks or golf balls at them. The point, said Dzugan, is to discourage the coyotes from coming around.
"There's been an effort to teach people to haze and un-habituate them," said Dzugan, who said it's especially important for residents to refrain from leaving food out for animals.
"If you're putting food out 5 feet from your back door, the more you do it, the more comfortable they are coming within 5 feet of a house," said Dzugan.
Wheaton also has an online form residents can fill out to report coyote sightings to give city officials more information on where sightings are happening and how often. Dzugan said the majority of coyote encounters have been along the Illinois Prairie Path, the Chicago Golf Club, and near the Morton Arboretum.
Wheaton's coyote management plan, for example, provides information on the city's response to everything from the occasional coyote sighting to aggressive coyote behavior.
"I feel confident we've had an impact by continually sending out reminders, from post cards and signage, keeping the public educated," said Dzugan.
Scalera said Riverside's coyote policy will likely be fashioned after Wheaton's.
"Coyotes are something that we'll probably have to continually deal with," said Scalera.