Let Loose the Coyotes? Chicago Embraces Rat-Hunting Predators

By Jennifer Welsh | November 16, 2010 2:59 pm

The coyote to the right was caught on video running loose in the middle of Chicago at 3:00 am on Monday morning. The police didn’t seem to know what it was doing there, but Brad Block, a supervisor for the Chicago Commission on Animal Care and Control told Chicago Breaking News that the coyote  is let loose in the city to monitor the pest population:

The animal has the run of the Loop to help deal with rats and mice. He said no one has called today to complain. “He’s not a threat…. He’s not going to pick up your children,” Block said. “His job is to deal with all of the nuisance problems, like mice, rats and rabbits.”

Block told Chicago Breaking News that the animal is outfitted with a GPS collar to track its whereabouts while it hunts mice, rats, and any other small tasty animals. Treehugger though, believes that these coyotes are actually part of the Urban Coyote Ecology and Management project, run out of Cook County:

As far as a coyote being released on purpose to eat up rodents… well, that’s probably more a tactic to keep city residents calm about their furry neighbors. Instead, the animals-as-pest-control is likely more a happy side effect of letting the coyotes do their thing to find out more about them.

The program is supposed to be monitoring the animals and how they fare within city limits. About 250 coyotes in the area have been radio-tagged and are being monitored, according to the Urban Coyote website:

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.

With human urban areas continually encroaching on wildlife habitats, this becomes an important field of study. Last year, Chicago Breaking News reports, a coyote had taken up residence in a park in Chicago and had to be removed after becoming accustomed to people’s handouts. And there has already been coyote roadkill in Chicago.

Related content:
Discoblog: In the Light of a Streetlamp, Young Blue Tits Get More Action
Discoblog: Citizen Scientists Take Charge of California’s Roadkill
80beats: Are Wolves Interbreeding Themselves to Extinction?
Gene Expression: Coywolves; hybrid wolf-coyotes in New England?
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Bone-crushing super-wolf went extinct during last Ice Age
Not Exactly Rocket Science: City mockingbirds can tell the difference between individual people

Image: Urban Coyote Ecology and Management, Video: WGN-9

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