The Cook County, Illinois, Coyote Project

The Ghosts of the Cities:

Originally known as ghosts of the plains, coyotes have now become ghosts of the cities, occasionally heard but rarely seen.

Although a relatively recent phenomenon, coyotes have become the top carnivores in an increasing number of metropolitan areas across North America.  This includes one of the largest urban centers in the Midwest the Chicago metropolitan region. However, compared to other urban wildlife, we know very little about how coyotes are becoming successful in landscapes dominated by people.


Learn more about coyotes here .


Our limited understanding of how coyotes succeed in urban landscapes hampers management of this animal.

Even knowledge of their basic ecology is incomplete. This is important because diets, social behavior, movement patterns and survival may change with urbanization. Nevertheless, as coyotes become increasingly abundant in the cities, so does the need for basic information to develop management strategies. In areas where coyotes have existed with people for some time, such as the southwestern United States, conflicts with coyotes threaten the health and well-being of people and pets.

See Management for more information.


The emergence of urban coyotes and conflicts with people raise some  important questions, such as:

  • Are extreme conflicts the inevitable result of the relatively recent emergence of coyotes in Midwestern and eastern U.S. cities?
  • What are the full ramifications for people, pets, and other wildlife when this remarkable canid suddenly becomes a neighbor?
  • Are coyotes synanthropic species, i.e. do coyotes reside in urban areas because of an attraction to and benefit from human activities in urban areas?
  • How does coyote behavior differ in areas with limited natural habitat and intense human presence from behavior exhibited in rural areas?
  • Does coyote use of the landscape vary by sex, age, season or social status?
  • How do mange and heartworm affect coyote population dynamics and behavior? How does the landscape affect disease transfer?  What are the implications for people and pets?

See Current Activities  to learn more.
A Snapshot of Our Study:

In addition to trapping adult coyotes, we also mark pups from natal dens during the spring. Pups are weighed, sexed, and a microchip is placed under the skin for identification if they are captured later.

Each coyote that we capture is moved to a lab, where it is measured, weighed, inspected for health and condition, tagged with numbered ear tags, and fitted with a radio collar.

Radio collars allow us to follow coyote movements and identify causes of death if coyotes die.  After processing and collaring captured coyotes, we always release coyotes where they were caught; we do not move coyotes from one area to another as part of the project.

A litter of pups taken from a den, marked, and then returned. As part of this research, it is necessary to capture and radio collar coyotes. We use humane traps and are very restricted when and where they are placed.

To learn more about our methods and project objectives, see Our Project.

 Is it a coyote or not?

Although it might pass as a medium-size domestic dog, the coyote has a few noticeable characteristics that sets him apart from the average pet.  Learn More

Are there coyotes around my house?

Coyotes may not be as rare in the city as you think. How can you tell if they are nearby?  Learn More:

Featured Coyotes-Meet Big Mama.

Our research team has been tracking coyotes for 8 years. Here are some current reports about a couple coyotes and their packs. Learn More

The Cook County, Illinois, Coyote Project - Urban Coyote Ecology and Management

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