Several Coyote Sightings in Winnebago County & Information About Coyotes

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Calls have been received regarding Coyotes howling at night and Coyote sightings. Let me assure you, living in the country, you will both hear and see Coyotes.

Coyotes are usually nocturnal, but they do show themselves during the day. Just because you see one or hear one does not mean you should call the police. No, do not call 911.

However, there are certain behaviors that are cause for alarm by Coyotes and they are:
• Coyotes dropping anvils from hot air balloons
• Coyotes in possession of a giant magnet
• Coyotes in possession of “TNT”
• Coyotes carrying product marked “ACME”
• Coyotes posting signs such as “detour” or “free bird seed”
• Coyotes in possession of a catapult
• Coyotes on roller skates with rockets attached
Please … call 911 immediately if you witness any of the above behavior by COYOTES.

 On a serious note: 

We have had numerous reports of coyotes being spotted in Winnebago County and some have reported that they have been spotted in areas that are heavily populated. Some information about Coyotes is posted below. 

Coyotes are found throughout Illinois—in rural, suburban and highly urban areas. So if you see a coyote resting in or crossing a backyard, golf course, park or field—that is normal coyote behavior. It is also common to see coyotes out during the day. As long as they are given their space, coyotes do not typically pose a threat to people or pets.

Coyote bites are rare.

Here are some steps to prevent human–coyote conflicts:

  • Do not run if a coyote approaches you. Safety procedures for dealing with coyotes are different than those for dealing with an unknown dog. Yell, stand up straight, and wave your arms (the goal is to make yourself appear larger), or throw something at the coyote to make it move away (the goal is to scare it away, not to injure it).
  • Teach your kids what to do if they see a coyote. Have them throw their arms up in the air and yell “like a monster” to scare the coyote away.
  • Do not leave small pets unattended when they are outside, especially at night. Consider the use of fencing or kennel runs to protect small pets.
  • Do not feed coyotes. Property owners should limit the availability of unintentional food sources, such as bird food, pet food, ripe fruit, or trash.
  • Comply with local ordinances that require oversight/restraint of pets. Coyotes that are protecting their den or young will vigorously defend the area. Simply walking your dog in another area keeps everyone safe.
  • Target the responsible coyote(s) when a pattern of “undesirable” behavior develops. Usually it will be easier to change human and domestic animal use of an area than to capture the coyote(s). Recognize that coyote population reduction (removing some or all of the coyotes in an area) is usually unrealistic and always temporary. Removal of coyotes also requires time, effort, and funding.
  • Alert residents of the neighborhood and the local municipality (e.g., police, public safety officer) if, and as soon as, a problem develops with a coyote.
  • If removal of a coyote is deemed necessary, hire a nuisance wildlife control operator who is licensed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). Coyote removals approved by the IDNR usually involve the use of cage (live) traps or padded foot-hold traps. These animals are humanely euthanized, not relocated.


The coyote resembles a small German shepherd dog, but carries its tail below the level of the back rather than curved upward. Its upper body is typically light gray to dull yellow, but can vary from mostly black to nearly all gray or white. Course outer hairs are usually tipped with black. The underparts are whitish, cream colored or pinkish yellow. A coyote’s muzzle is long and narrow; its ears are erect and pointed. The average length of an adult is 44 to 54 inches, including a 15- to 17-inch tail. Weights measured during fall and winter vary from 22 to 42 pounds.

Coyotes are valuable members of the wildlife community. They help keep populations of small mammals and rabbits under control. As Illinois’ largest remaining predator, they are an integral part of healthy ecosystem functioning.


Coyotes occur in nearly all types of habitat, including urban and suburban areas. They are most abundant in areas with a mixture of farmland, woodland and grassland.


An average home range encompasses 2-10 square miles. Members of packs tend to have smaller home ranges than “loners”. Sizes of home ranges are also influenced by the quality of habitat a coyote lives in, presence of nearby packs and seasons of the year – especially when coyotes are breeding or rearing pups.

Home ranges are not exclusive; several coyotes might live in the same area. These groups, referred to as packs, usually consist of extended families. Members of one pack rarely venture into another’s territory. Some coyotes do not belong to packs. These solitary coyotes tend to have larger home ranges than pack coyotes and are less respectful of pack boundaries. They sometimes join a pack when one of the members leaves or dies.

Coyotes communicate with a variety of barks, yips and howls. They also mark areas with urine, feces or gland secretions, much like domestic dogs. Body language plays an important role in the family social structure and in meetings between strangers. Facial expressions and body gestures can signal a coyote’s aggressive, submissive or neutral intentions.

Coyotes prefer semi-open country and like to travel on ridges or old trails. They are most active from dusk until the early morning hours, but are sometimes seen at other times of the day. They can run up to 43 miles per hour for short distances. Water is rarely a barrier because coyotes swim well. Few coyotes live past 3 to 4 years of age. The oldest coyote found in a study conducted in Illinois during 1996 to 1997 was 13 years old.


Coyotes are Illinois’ largest wild predator. Most of their diet consists of animal matter, but they often eat insects, fruits or berries. Rabbits and mice are important food items in Illinois and other Midwestern states.

A study in the Chicago area showed the following food groups and percentages of occurrence in coyotes’ diets: small rodents 43%; white-tailed deer 22%; fruit 23%; eastern cottontail 18%; birds 13%. The presence of human-associated foods (like garbage) was rare (2%), as was the presence of domestic cat (1%).

In Iowa, winter foods of coyotes were composed by volume of: 51 percent rabbits, 25.5 percent mice, 8.0 percent other mammals, 2.7 percent birds, 0.5 percent plants and miscellaneous. Coyotes sometimes eat carrion, so it’s difficult to determine whether livestock and poultry in their diet represent actual kills.


A few females breed at one year of age, but most mature in their second year. Breeding peaks in late February or early March. A female typically mates for two to five days during this period. The gestation (pregnancy) period is 58 to 63 days. Pups are born during late April or May in a den under a hollow tree, log, brush pile, or even an abandoned building. More often, coyotes raise their young in a remodeled burrow dug originally by a fox, badger, or woodchuck. Litters of 2 to 19 pups have been documented, but four to nine is the norm. The pups are blind and helpless at birth and are covered with brownish-gray woolly fur. Their eyes open between 8 and 14 days of age. The young first come out of the den when they’re about 21 days old but don’t remain outside for long periods until they are 5 or 6 weeks of age.

Both parents care for the young, especially after they’re weaned. Hunting short distances from the den (usually 3 to 5 miles), the parents kill and eat what they catch, then regurgitate it for the pups when they return. The pups begin to learn to hunt for themselves when they are 8 to 12 weeks old. The family usually moves away from the den about this time, and often breaks up in late summer or early fall. After they leave their parents, some young may move up to 120 miles away in search of their own living space.


Coyotes are valuable members of the wildlife community and do more good than harm where humans are concerned. However, they occasionally kill livestock, poultry, and domestic pets, especially where coyotes live in large numbers or in close association with people. Eliminating all of the coyotes in an area is not a realistic goal because voids will be filled quickly. Fortunately, removing individuals with “bad behaviors” usually solves a problem even when other coyotes continue to live in an area. Visit Living with Wildlife in Illinois for suggestions on preventing problems with coyotes and removing them legally.

Attacks on humans are extremely rare considering the range and abundance of coyotes. A study published in 2007 found 187 reliable reports of attacks on humans, most of which (157) occurred in California, Arizona and Nevada. Many of these incidents occurred where people were feeding coyotes intentionally, causing them to lose their fear of humans. See Urban Coyote Ecology and Management for suggestions on avoiding problems in residential areas.

Coyotes are harvested during regulated hunting and trapping seasons. An average of 7,000 coyotes are harvested each year in Illinois. Approximately 75% are taken by hunters and 25% by trappers. The trapping season is restricted to the fall and winter months, while the hunting season is open year-round. A liberal hunting season allows landowners to remove problem animals without having to obtain a special permit. Biologists monitor the population to ensure that hunting and trapping do not negatively impact the population.


Six Easy Steps to Avoid Conflicts

Although coyotes have been known to attack humans (and pets) and as such are a potential danger to people, especially children, risks are minimal and we feel that the majority of attack incidents could be reduced or prevented through modification of human behavior.

Do not feed coyotes

1. Do not feed coyotes

The number one most effective way to prevent coyote attacks in your neighborhood is to eliminate wildlife feeding. Coyotes that are fed in residential neighborhoods can lose their fear of people and may eventually test humans (and pets) as possible prey. Intentional feeding, such as bait stations in yards or parks, should be strictly avoided. However, many people unintentionally feed coyotes by leaving pet food or garbage out at night or having large bird feeders. Coyotes are usually not interested in bird food, but bird feeders often attract rodents, especially squirrels, which then attract coyotes.

If you are seeing an increase in coyotes, you should additionally review your own actions to ensure compost piles and trash bins are not allowed to be a source of food. Although coyotes seem to have a natural inclination to avoid human-related food, this can change when prey populations are low, or if the coyotes are young and haven’t yet learned to hunt effectively.

Video showing one cause of coyote conflict with people:

2. Do not let pets run loose

Coyotes probably live nearby, even if you don’t know it, so do not let pets run loose. When hiking in parks, keep dogs on leashes. Pets left outside, even with fencing, remain at risk for predation and unnecessary conflict. Do not leave your pets unattended outside, not even for a second. Remember, electric fences may keep your pets contained but do not keep other animals away.

Free-ranging domestic cats and feral cat colonies may also serve to attract coyotes; it is important that domestic cats be kept indoors and that feral cats be spayed or neutered to control this population. Bringing food inside when outdoor cats are not feeding might alleviate part of this coyote attractant.

The presence of coyote pups can elevate negative adult coyote behaviors

The presence of coyote pups can elevate negative adult coyote behaviors

3. Do not run from a coyote

When you encounter a coyote, shout or throw something in its direction. Do not run away. Do not play victim if you can help it. If a coyote seems intent on defending a certain area, particularly around pupping season (May), your best bet may be to alter your route to avoid conflict with a normally calm animal; understand that there may be seasonal patterns of behavioral changes and act accordingly (see Coyote 748’s story). We recommend if you are out walking that you carry some sort of noise maker with you (some have reported success scaring off coyotes by shaking a can of rocks).

If you see a coyote during the daytime, you should exhibit caution, as that coyote may have become habituated to humans (and may be more likely to attack). If you are approached by a coyote, you should yell, wave your arms, and/or throw something at the coyote (do not run away).

4. Repellents or fencing may help

Some repellents may work in keeping coyotes out of small areas such as yards, although these have not been tested thoroughly for coyotes. Repellents may involve remotely activated lights or sound-making devices. Fencing may keep coyotes out of a yard, particularly if it is more than six feet in height with a roll bar across the top. Spray repellents (pepper spray, etc) that you can carry with you have been reported with only moderate to no success.

5. Do not create conflict where it does not exist

If a coyote is acting as a coyote should by avoiding humans and pets, do not seek out opportunities to haze or otherwise aggravate the animal. Embracing communal respect is key.

6. Report aggressive, fearless coyotes immediately

When a coyote fails to exhibit fear of humans or acts aggressively, the animal should be reported as soon as possible to the appropriate officials. It is recommended that towns have a procedure in place to handle these reports. Signs of aggression are similar to those shown by domestic dogs and include agitated barking (unprovoked), raised hackles, snarling, growling, and lunging. These behaviors are usually preceded by other indications as shown in the chart below, though may change seasonally (see “suggestion 3” above).

Wondering who to call with your coyote concerns? If you are having a conflict with a coyote, you may need to contact your individual town’s animal control or police department to learn about their protocols for handling coyote issues since each municipality and agency may respond differently. You may also contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for further guidance. In most instances, removal of a non-dangerous coyote (i.e., one that is simply present but not causing harm) will be the responsibility of the individual homeowner. In this case, you will need to contract with a licensed wildlife trapper. Wildlife handling of any type should always be provided by a professional.

In non-threatening situations, our research indicates that often it is best to leave coyotes where they are since the removal of one animal does not ensure removal of coyotes from your area in general. Most municipalities have adopted this belief.

Because this project is research driven, assisting private homeowners with their individual issues with coyotes is usually not logistically possible. We are happy, however, to speak with you to offer any guidance we can if you do not find the resources you need online.

When Should I Be Concerned?

A list of signs indicating an increase in threat from coyotes is presented in Figure 1. It is important to note, however, that coyotes are highly variable in their behavior and this sequence may not always be predictive. Still, management programs for urban coyotes should begin with public education and untangling facts from myths. People should understand the differences between true threats and coexistence.

Coyote threat response diagram

Figure 1. Indicator chart of various coyote threat levels

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. Coyote removal is best employed as a solution only after education has been attempted or if there is an immediate, and obvious, threat to human safety.

Sources: Beloit Scanner, East Troy PD,,,

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