Coyotes spotted near dead deer in West Chicago neighborhood
When West Chicago resident John Kautenberger took his dogs out for a walk about 5 a.m. Wednesday, he could tell something was wrong.
The dogs were restless and he quickly saw why: Three coyotes were sitting roughly 50 paces from his front door, near a large pile that was hardly visible in the pre-dawn light.
Kautenberger put his dogs back in his house in the Cornerstone Lakes subdivision and walked closer to get a better look. The "pile" was a large, bloody deer, freshly torn up in his neighbor's yard near a school bus stop.
"My biggest concern is just the savagery of what happened here," he said. "It's pretty scary. I'm thinking these son of a guns are going to come back again."
Kautenberger yelled at the coyotes to try to scare them off, but they lingered for a long time. This wasn't his first sighting of the animals, either.
"I would say about a year ago we started actually seeing coyotes walking down the street with rodents of some kind in their mouth," he said.
About a month ago, he saw a coyote carrying a small raccoon. "It's a problem that seems to be growing," he said. "They're just not afraid of humans anymore."
Jack MacRae, naturalist for the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, said this time of year is a breeding period for coyotes, which means they may be "a little more conspicuous" as they look for a mate.
While there have been more reported sightings in recent years, likely due to an increase in public awareness, MacRae believes the population of coyotes leveled off in the suburbs about 20 years ago.
Coyotes typically hunt for rabbits, voles and other small animals, so MacRae was surprised at the size of coyotes' prey in this case.
"I've never heard of anybody witnessing a deer being attacked by three coyotes," he said. "They don't hunt as a pack, like a wolf pack would, but you could have three individual coyotes going after the same prey."
Still, MacRae said, coyotes "take advantage of what they can get."
Healthy whitetail deer, MacRae said, should be able to outrun a coyote, so it's likely the deer Kautenberger saw was injured before it was killed. That, along with the current snow and ice conditions, might explain why the deer wasn't able to escape.
That doesn't give Kautenberger much comfort.
"What if it was an injured kid? To me, that's pretty bold, to do it in someone's yard," he said.
MacRae said Kautenberger did the right thing when he spotted the coyotes. He advised anyone else who comes across the animals to make loud noises and make themselves visible in an effort to scare them off.
Eric Shipman, support services commander for the West Chicago Police Department, said residents occasionally call in to report coyote sightings, but he can't recall any similar reports in recent months.
"This one was unusual because it was a deer," he said. "The belief was that the deer was injured. We don't think it was a full-grown, healthy deer."
A private trapper hired by the city removed the carcass Wednesday and plans to examine it, Shipman said.
While the trapper has the capability to start trapping coyotes, Shipman said the city will take a look at the whole situation and take the trapper's advice into consideration before moving forward.
Anyone with concerns about coyotes in DuPage County can call the Willowbrook Wildlife Center at (630) 942-6200.