CHICAGO — Overpopulation, coupled with mating season and human error, keeps Rob Erickson, known as the “Coyote Man,’ busy this time of year.
Tracking coyotes since he was a teenager, he says he’s averaging about three hours of sleep a night to keep up with the high demand from his clients: towns, cities and homeowners who have found coyotes all too comfortable around humans and their pets.
“I feel terrible when somebody’s pet gets killed. It’s a terrible, horrible thing,” Erickson said. “I’m trying the best I can to make sure that it doesn’t happen.”
Spending most of his days tracking down coyotes scaring locals all over Illinois, he was most recently called to Palatine to investigate two dogs’ deaths.
“One was on the north side of the town and one was on the south side of the town,” he said. “Both of the offending coyotes have been removed.”
Scientific Wildlife Management, who began tracking coyotes in 2013, created a website to help locals track down canines spotted statewide. Erickson says sightings are increasing as a result of overpopulation.
“One of the things that people don’t understand is every time you have a mild winter, populations go up between 18 and 20%,” Erickson said.
Overpopulation isn’t the only issue, Erickson warns. Humans may be contributing to a growing number of coyotes.
“Basically feeding that’s the biggest thing that we have,” Erickson said. “The birdfeeders are overwhelmed with food.
“Every coyote that we’ve done a necropsy on this year has had bird seed in them. Every single one.”
Bird feed, dog and cat food and food from the dinner table is doing more harm than good.
“They are opportunists,” Erickson said. “They will do anything they can for a meal.”
According to Erickson, coyotes are killers. He adds that the predators won’t leave an area where food is readily available.
One municipality has 261 coyote sightings in just 11 days.
“Once they lose their fear they become extremely dangerous,” Erickson said.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 38 coyote bites were reported from 2013-2020. Fifteen of those instances were in Cook County. Twenty-nine of the bites were to the hand, arm, foot, or leg area.
As for mating season, which stretches from Jan. 15 to Feb. 15, male coyotes are aggressive, Erickson said. Once the pups arrive, about 63 days later, the females become the aggressors to protect their young.
Still, catching a coyote has become a crusade from “Coyote Man,” who says the predators have made their way to the city and suburbs in record numbers.
“In the rural areas, they are still hunted and pursued,” Erickson said. “In the city, they pose for pictures. There is no repercussion to anything that they do.”
For more information about the mission of Scientific Wildlife Management, click here.