We have a serious coyote problem in Riverside (“No shooting coyotes in Riverside,” News, Dec. 11). We see them frequently and they have become a nuisance in their seeking of prey.
The village board wants residents to stop any feeding of coyotes; I agree. If the board wants us to improve our garbage containers to be hard to tip over and with tighter lids, I would again agree.
The board believes that increased noise hazing of coyotes will help; I disagree. If the board were to do as police chief suggests, to shoot coyotes under carefully controlled conditions, I would quickly agree, but the board doesn’t seem about to make that policy change.
I grew up in the 1930s and 1940s on a farm in eastern South Dakota. While there I never saw a coyote in the wild until I was in my late teens. But the coyotes were there. In the summer we would see their tracks in the mud after a night rain, and in winter, in tracks in the snow.
In spring we would see feathers and egg-shell pieces where coyotes had found a hen pheasant or wild turkey on a nest. Sometimes we found the remains of a fawn or of an adult deer that had the misfortune to break a leg. At dusk we might hear the couple of seconds of shrieks and screams of a cottontail as the evening meal of a fox or coyotes. Indeed, the coyotes were there.
We seldom saw the coyotes, because they didn’t want to be seen by humans and thus avoided going where humans were.
Coyotes are predators. Predators stalk, pursue, catch and eat their prey. Coyotes prefer very young prey and very old prey as easier to catch. Coyotes are not evil or malicious; they are just very successful predators.
Normally the coyotes found prey among the cottontails, jack rabbits and other animals where the coyotes lived. But when coyotes are too numerous or the typical prey is sparse or there is very nasty weather and the coyotes need food, coyotes will snatch a lamb from a flock or a chicken from the farmyard as food. For the farmers this was a major economic problem. They had and were familiar with rifles and shotguns, so they shot at and often killed all coyotes as “surplus” coyotes whenever they saw one.
Since we shot at the coyotes we saw, the coyote response was to make sure we did not see them. Coyotes did not go where the humans with firearms were except in dire situations. For the most part, this all worked out.
That solution still works today in the rural areas of Illinois. A member of our family owns a 25- to 30-acre forested, non-agricultural parcel, with a dwelling used part time, along a river about 60 miles south of Riverside.
For about 10 years I have been going down there about once a week. I have seen many small and large animals, birds, water fowl and fish — but not a single coyote. The coyotes are there; they just avoid being seen and getting shot.
As solutions, some suggest we should trap the coyotes and relocate them. As a young man I trapped many animals for their fur pelts. Coyotes are very difficult to trap, and any transfer of a Riverside coyote, unafraid of humans, to a rural area is a death sentence.
It would be more practical and far less work to kill the coyotes here in Riverside. As for hazing of coyotes, short of tossing an M-80 firecracker at them as they approach a garbage can, noise hazing is a waste of time. If nothing serious really happens, the coyotes will soon ignore the hazing.
If coyotes start to make dens in Riverside, it may be that the den sites in the nearby forest preserves are filled up and the coyotes are simply adjusting to crowded conditions. If the normal prey supply becomes too limited, the coyotes will only become more aggressive in taking small pets in Riverside.
I am not formally educated in the control of predators, but I do know what works with coyotes both in rural South Dakota and rural Illinois. I can contribute to the village board’s interest in the “stronger educational effort” that they feel is needed.
My point is that a policy of not shooting coyotes in Riverside isn’t working and isn’t ever likely to work. It is time for a change in policy.
James L. Keen