The Cook County, Illinois, Coyote Project



The Study







In 2000, we initiated a comprehensive ecological study of coyotes in the Chicago metropolitan area, specifically Cook County, Illinois, to address shortcomings in urban coyote ecology and management.  The Urban Coyote Project is currently still underway.


STUDY AREA: Cook County and the Chicago Metropolitan Area


The Chicago metropolitan area spans all or parts of 6 counties in northeastern Illinois (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will), and extends into parts of Wisconsin and Indiana.  


The 6 counties include greater than 260 municipalities and a cumulative human population exceeding 9 million, making this one of the most heavily urbanized areas in North America.

Cook County, Illinois (in red)

General land cover in 1997 for this area was estimated to be 33% agriculture, 30% urban, 16% natural areas, and 21% unassociated vegetation.  Natural areas in the Chicago metropolitan area consisted of savannas, woodlands, grasslands and wetlands.  These areas have become fragmented, first by agriculture in the 1800s, and more recently through urbanization.  An important feature of the Chicago metropolitan landscape is the patchwork of habitat fragments protected from development, most of which are county forest preserves.

In Cook County, forest preserves make up 11% of the land area, providing an important component of the landscape mosaic in addition to the greater than 5 million human inhabitants in that county.  Our fieldwork is largely focused in the northwestern portion of the metropolitan area, including O’Hare International Airport.



METHODS: Capture & Collaring

As part of this research, we capture coyotes and radio-collar them in order to identify and monitor their home ranges, i.e. the area where a coyote lives and travels daily. 

Through 2008, we have captured over 300 coyotes and radio-collared over 250 so far, making this the largest urban study of coyotes in the world.



Above is a coyote that has just been fitted with a radio-collar and ear tags. 

We have tracked the coyotes day and night, locating collared coyotes more than 40,000 times over 11 years.  This allows us to peek into the hidden lives of urban coyotes.

We obtain radiolocations for coyotes using triangulation with a truck- mounted antenna or by visual observations.  We locate coyotes once during the day, typically 2 or 3 times per week, and at night during tracking shifts in which we focus on a group of coyotes and obtain sequential locations at 60- to 120-min intervals for 5-6 hours during the night.  This means that our staff is always working- night and day to track coyotes!


APPLICATION: How we use the results from our study

We use results from this unique project to answer common questions regarding coyotes in urban areas.  Many aspects of coyote ecology have direct management implications.  Although our study was focused on Cook County, Illinois, we believe the things we have learned about coyotes and people living together are indicative of many metropolitan areas in the Midwest and eastern United States.  See Management and Study Results to learn more about application of our results.

Checking the teeth of the captured coyotes aided in determining both the health and age of coyotes.       



The Cook County Coyote Project, largely funded by the Cook County Animal and Rabies Control Agency, is a unique study comprised of collaborations between the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Brookfield Zoo, and the Zoological Pathology Program from the University of Illinois.




The Cook County, Illinois, Coyote Project

The Ohio State University