Bob Aldape has a neighbor named Herbert. He’s not quite sure where Herbert lives, but his neighbor is a creature of habit.
“I’ve seen him since last year, but this year it’s been more predominant,” said Aldape, who lives in the 300 block of Uvedale Road, on the outer ring of the Uvedale/Gatesby circle in north central Riverside.
“He always comes from one side [of his next door neighbor’s home], crosses the street and heads to the center of the circle,” said Aldape. “After a while I see him coming back. It’s his route, and he repeats it every time.”
Aldape’s never spoken to Herbert, not that it would make any difference. Herbert is a coyote. And he’s around so often that residents in and around the Uvedale/Gatesby circle are convinced he lives somewhere nearby — maybe under a clump of evergreens in a backyard. There are at least three possible den sites neighbors have theorized about, but no one’s ever been able to locate it, despite Herbert’s frequent presence.
Actually, there have been as many as three coyotes neighbors have reported seeing at one time in the neighborhood. Many of the dozen or so people the Landmark talked to in the neighborhood have seen two different ones, a large grayish coyote and a smaller, thinner tan coyote.
“I’ve seen coyotes about a half dozen times in [late May and early June] at all different times in the backyard and just running down the street,” said Kelly Barr, who lives on Gatesby Road. “I’m fearful of leaving [my dog] outside. It scares me to death.”
Usually, they roam independently through the front and back yards of the neighborhood. Sometimes, they cross over Delaplaine Road into Big Ball Park and have been seen east of Longcommon Road on Shenstone Road. They’ve also been seen north of the circle, along Southcote and Selborne roads.
As of July 3, Riverside police had received 111 reports of coyote sightings in Riverside. That’s far and away the largest number of sightings reported during any year in the village. Based on a map of reported locations released earlier this year and based upon locations of most recent reports, at least one-third of the sightings have come from the area in and around the Uvedale/Gatesby circle.
Part of that uptick is due to a new village policy, put in place in February, asking residents to call police any time they encounter a coyote. The department wants to track the sightings to get a sense of the scale of the problem and pinpoint areas where the presence of coyotes could be a concern.
That policy was the result of an incident in January, where a pack of three coyotes reportedly attacked three dogs in the backyard of a home on South Herbert Road, far from the Uvedale/Gatesby circle. A dog owner in late December 2012 reported that his dog had been killed by a coyote in the 100 block of Addison Road.
“From our perspective, it helps get information out to the public and it tells us more coyotes are walking around the village,” said Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel. “There are more sightings than I would have thought. There are certainly parts of town where there are clusters. That was news to us.”
And that number reflects just a fraction of the times residents there have encountered the coyotes.
“I’ve seen them so many times, I stopped counting,” said Aldape.
Since the December and January coyote attack reports, none have involved any threat to pets or people, according to police and residents themselves. But anecdotes from residents also reveal that the coyotes are quite comfortable in their neighborhoods — leisurely sunning themselves in their backyards during midday naps, for example.
“[The coyote] just sits there. She just hangs out,” said Natasha Pelka, a Uvedale Road resident who keeps a short leash on her 6-year-old cockapoo, Fifi, whenever they are outside. “It’s like she’s not afraid of anything.”
The coyote has planted itself 15 feet from the sliding glass door to the rear patio and just sits there, eyeing the little dog inside the house.
“Fifi goes crazy, then [the coyote stops and looks at the door, but they don’t move,” said Pelka. “I’m afraid to walk Fifi at night. I always have a stick with me. At night I’d let her outside, and I no longer do that.”
A Gatesby Road resident who didn’t wish to be identified said that two weeks ago she was walking her small dog toward her home, when she spotted the coyote down the road on the other side of the street. She picked up her dog as she approached the coyote, who stood its ground.
“When I got up to its level, going home, he just walked slowly on the other side of the street, just watching us,” she said. “So I started to stomp my feet and shouted, and it disappeared between two houses. For four to five minutes, it was scary.”
The same woman reported seeing a coyote on the front porch of a home on Delaplaine Road, west of Nuttall, about three weeks ago.
“I think they have a den around here,” she said. “It’s almost an everyday occurrence.”
Deb Maxwell, a Uvedale Road resident who lives near Aldalpe, said she saw three coyotes near Herbert’s usual pathway one morning in March. Her next-door neighbor, Donna Cermak, has seen coyotes in her backyard.
Cermak owns a 150-pound lab/mastiff mix. One day she let the dog out into the yard without first checking, only to find a coyote lying on the grass. When her dog began growling, the coyote took off.
One reason for the coyotes’ presence in the neighborhood is likely the presence of other small animals. Residents say they have always had foxes and rabbits roaming the neighborhood.
There’s evidence the coyotes have found that attractive. Pelka said this past winter she found a rabbit’s head on her front lawn, with blood-spattered snow all around. Maxwell said she found the leg of a fox or rabbit in her backyard during winter as well.
Residents have theories for where Herbert and his coyotes colleagues might be holed up. Some have been reported to police, who have yet to find evidence of any specific den, according to Weitzel.
Weitzel says that police have responded to the locations of coyote sightings many times, but by the time officers get there, the coyotes have invariably left the area. Even if they find one, Weitzel said, there’s not much police can do unless they can definitely pinpoint a den or if the coyote poses a specific threat.
“If there’s a threat we can take some aggressive action,” said Weitzel.
If a den is found on private property, the village can request that the homeowners get rid of it. If the homeowner doesn’t respond, it will take some time for the village to get a trapping license to do the job.
“I have no doubt there’s one roaming somewhere. I know they’re there,” Weitzel said. “But we’re not going to shoot to kill if there’s no aggressive action.”
Weitzel said the best thing residents can do to keep the coyotes away is to maintain their properties, so there are no overgrown areas where coyotes might find shelter, and to deprive them of food sources by keeping garbage cans secured.
“They’re looking for food,” said Weitzel.