Carpentersville Trustee Brad McFeggan did not expect to run into an aggressive coyote during a morning stroll through Raceway Woods, with his young daughter and dog in tow.
But that's exactly what happened.
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McFeggan was walking on the racetrack's straightaway on a recent Sunday when a coyote kept barking and howling at the party of three almost 70 feet away, "Almost like it was trying to round up the troops," he said.
McFeggan started to turn around to walk back to the parking lot, and as he backed up, the coyote began to approach the trio. He picked up his daughter and began walking rapidly, but the coyote shadowed the group and continued to bark and howl until they got to the parking lot. McFeggan's dog Tess, an 80-pound Rottweiler and Border collie mix who doesn't get along with other dogs, growled and kept her eye on the coyote to make sure it didn't ambush the group.
"I've hiked there at least once a month for years and ... it's always been very peaceful and this was the first time I had that kind of encounter," said McFeggan, who was at Raceway Woods off Huntley Road west of Route 31. "If I had to, I would have let my dog off the leash."
Over the last two-plus weeks, police from Dundee Township, Carpentersville and the Kane County Forest Preserve District have received about a half-dozen combined reports of similar behavior from coyotes in Raceway Woods.
"There's been no attacks that we're aware of," Forest Preserve Police Chief Mike Gillofo said.
The people were usually on the same stretch of pavement as McFeggan and were always with dogs, whether leashed or unleashed. Most of the accounts describe one coyote approaching a dog or following at a distance, while others reported that one coyote was barking, while two to three other coyotes watched or followed, said Bill Graser a wildlife biologist with the Kane County Forest Preserve.
Coyotes are typically afraid of humans, but are very territorial and view dogs as competition and in other cases, maybe even a threat, Graser said.
"Its not normal for (coyotes) to follow people closely," Graser said. "The people's dogs are what's drawing their curiosity in my opinion."
Right now, everyone's in awareness mode.
During the trustee reports section of last week's televised board meeting, McFeggan warned viewers to watch out for coyotes in Raceway Woods.
As well, the Kane County Forest Preserve has put up signs in its portion of Raceway Woods. Dundee Township has its signs on order, Supervisor Sue Harney said.
Any talk that authorities should instead remove or kill off the coyotes is too drastic.
"When you go onto land like that, there's an acceptance of risk," Harney said. "It is simply not realistic to think that we can get rid of coyotes."
Meanwhile, if you encounter a coyote, it's best to back away slowly and maintain eye contact, rather than turn your back and run, Glaser said. Keep your dogs on a leash and if a coyote approaches you, shout and wave at it, or throw small stones and sticks.
"Basically, you're trying to re-instill their fear in human beings, if it's been reduced or lost," Glaser said.