The Cook County, Illinois, Coyote Project



  Our Packs  






She was the first coyote captured on the project, on March 22, 2000, and has become the signature coyote of the project.

When she was originally captured, she was 1-year-old and solitary.   She weighed 29 lbs, and was in excellent health, if not a little on the small side.  In coyote years, she was a teenager.

We tracked her movements over portions of 5 cities for the next 8 to 9 months, as she floated across the landscape looking for a territory.

Eventually, she settled down with an uncollared male during early 2001, and started the Meacham Pack.  She was recaptured on April 12, 2004 (after months of trying on our parts) as a mature, pregnant female.  Again, she was in excellent health, weighing in at 37.5 lbs.

One of 7 pups from Big Mama and Coyote 115’s litter in 2004.




She was an alpha female until her death in 2010, and we were fortunate to follow her every year.

She was obviously very street smart, given that her territory covers many, many busy roads. I once watched her cross 8 lanes of traffic on I-290 when she was a yearling, and all of us have watched her and her mate cross roads regularly at night.



We were not able to capture Big Mama’s first mate prior to his death (likely from a vehicle), but we captured her second mate, Coyote #115, on February 18, 2004 (thanks to Bill), at the peak of the mating season.  Coyote #115 was in excellent condition at 40 lbs.

He remained with Big Mama constantly until her death in 2010.  They were similar to many married couples, where at times they are inseparable, and other times they take short breaks from each other, but they defended the same territory together continuously since #115’s capture date (over 4 years).  Over that time, they had at least 4 litters together, with both parents helping to raise the young.

See Featured Territories for images of Coyote #115 and Big Mama’s territories.


Coyote #434 is a good example of how human behaviors, such as feeding wildlife, can result in coyotes becoming a nuisance.


Coyote #434 was captured in a marsh surrounded by a subdivision and miles of urbanization, on Feb. 18, 2010.  She was a young female, approximately 10 months old, and weighed 13.1 kg.  



Although this was the peak of the breeding season, she was not in breeding condition.

A GPS collar was placed on Coyote #434, which means that she was located by satellites on an intensive schedule (at times, this was every 10 minutes, other times every hour).

She remained in the marsh and a woodlot, using a powerline easement as a corridor, while continuing to avoid homes and yards.  Her lack of use of these human-related areas was not the result of physical structures keeping her out; she strongly avoided these areas despite no fencing or other barriers.

She was apparently part of a coyote pack, and other coyotes were also observed using the marsh with her.  This continued until August 2010, when she began to separate from her family. 

She completely separated from the group by the end of August, and was a solitary animal during September and October 2010, during which she moved over a large area and through multiple cities.

On November 3, 2010, we received a request from The Illinois Department of Natural Resources to follow up with a woman complaining about a coyote (Coyote #434) that had been appearing in her backyard each morning for the past week.

Coyote #434 after collar blow off in area of nuisance complaint.

  • The animal was not threatening, but was attracted to the squirrels under the bird feeders.

  • Her neighbor was putting out food for the squirrels and for deer and the complainant herself was also feeding free-ranging cats for the neighborhood.

In this case, we were able to document the creation of a ‘nuisance’ coyote, Coyote #434, and could confirm that it was the behavior of people (by feeding wildlife) that changed the coyote’s behavior.

See Featured Territories to learn more about Coyote #434′s home range and habitat selection.


Coyote #441 is the most urban coyote we have yet to observe!  Coyote #441 was captured near the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago on March 10th, 2010.  At the time of capture, she was a subadult female in excellent condition, weighing 11 kg.  A GPS collar was placed on her and we recorded her locations until November 2010 when her collar blew off.  It is unknown whether she was a transient or pack coyote and whether she had successfully given birth to and reared pups.

Area near to the capture site of Coyote #441

See Featured Territories for Coyote #441 home range in downtown Chicago





The Cook County, Illinois, Coyote Project

The Ohio State University