About the program

Director Dr. Stan Gehrt on a field day

Director Dr. Stan Gehrt on a field day

The Cook County Coyote Project is a comprehensive study of coyotes in Chicago metropolitan areas. In 2000, the study was initiated as a non-biased attempt to address shortcomings in urban coyote ecology information and management; we continue to learn as the Coyote Project is still underway. With the help of many agencies, we live-capture our study subjects, collar, and release at the capture site. Coyotes are monitored in order to understand how they live in urban areas as well as how they interact with other wildlife and domestic animals. 

This website provides details on the study, information about urban coyotes (including how to avoid conflicts), and a snapshot of the lives of some of the animals being tracked. By providing the public with this research, we are initiating the first step of coyote management — educating the public and untangling facts from myths. People should become aware of coyote signs and understand the differences between true threats and coexistence. It is important to stress that our relationship with coyotes is directly affected by our behavior. Coyotes react to us, and we can foster mutual respect or a lack of respect through cues we send to them. In this research, our primary interest is in observing and only in very rare occasions do we test manipulation of coyote behavior.

Coyotes can live near us without conflict (photo credit Karen Voght)

Coyotes can live near us without conflict (photo credit Karen Voght)

One criticism of this research program is that it focuses on the overall population and ignores the situation of "problem coyotes." What has been learned from all the animals in this study, however, has provided the framework to manage both cases of conflict and those without. The issue with studying animals reported as nuisances is that often we cannot obtain enough information on the situation before someone has the animal removed, if we can even safely trap the animal for study. There are also many levels of nuisance, with the term itself being highly ambiguous; only a very small population of coyotes appears to be causing actual conflicts with humans. The Cook County Coyote Project gives perspective to media reports and neighborhood complaints that tend to focus only on coyotes causing trouble. Of the 446 radio-collared coyotes in a variety of urban habitats, only 14 have been reported as nuisances by members of the community (learn more here). While there are undoubtedly complaints we are not aware of, this number is likely a good indication of what the majority of coyotes are doing, which is staying out of our way.

In those communities experiencing heightened conflicts with coyotes (i.e., a coyote in your area is one of the 14), it is worth a review of our website, and specifically that of the consultations resulting from conflicts in Broomfield, CO (click here to read more). It is important to look at what individual people are doing in order to interpret what individual coyotes are doing. Many suburban areas unknowingly provide excellent habitat and other resources to coyotes; identifying these things may help reduce bold coyote behaviors by ensuring proper management of attractants.

Color variation in coyotes within the same litter - there is always something new to observe

Color variation in coyotes within the same litter - there is always something new to observe

Negative interactions with coyotes can be intimidating if not dangerous, and steps should be taken to be sure issues are not ignored. Using community-wide reporting procedures can be an effective way to track conflicts to specific areas or animals. Prevention in this case is critical, since lethal removal, if deemed necessary, is only a patch to cover a much deeper problem. 

We hope you find answers to your questions on this website. If not, or to provide feedback on a new sighting of a collared coyote in your area, please feel free to contact us. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the wildlife in your community.

coyote 571 image

Coyote 571 was a coyote who beat the odds, every time. She was captured first in December 2011, not yet a year old. She was fitted with a standard radio-collar and given her young status and healthy appearance, we stood back to see what her story would be. 571 turned out to be an amazing suburban animal. Although she did not navigate downtown Chicago streets, the Hoffman Estates/Schaumburg suburbs can often be an equally challenging network of traffic patterns (for human or animal).