CHICAGO — Coyotes continued to cause problems in Chicago Thursday as Lincoln Park High School was put on lockdown when a coyote was spotted nearby, one day after a 6-year-old boy was bitten by one in the neighborhood after likely surprising it.
This week has included two reported attacks on people, one attack on a dog, one harbor rescue of a water-logged coyote and multiple other sightings.
A sighting at Oz Park Thursday morning even led to Lincoln Park High School temporarily going on lockdown so students wouldn’t have to venture outside between classes.
In addition to the injured boy, a man said he was bitten in his butt by one Wednesday in Steeterville.
It’s not unusual to see coyotes in Chicago, said Kelley Gandurski, director of Animal Care and Control, during a Thursday news conference. But it’s been years — possibly decades — since a human reported being bit by one in the city.
“These are wild animals that live amongst us in our ecosystem,” Gandurski said. “While this seems unusual, interaction with coyotes, coyotes living in the city, is quite common. It’s been going on for generations.
“The odd circumstance is there was actually an attack,” she later added. “That’s what’s concerning.”
The 6-year-old boy who was confirmed bitten is still in the hospital, though he’s in good spirits and is recovering, Gandurski said.
That attack happened about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday as the boy and his caretaker walked on a trail by the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The boy was running up a hill and might have surprised the coyote, who bit the boy’s head, Gandurski said. There’s no evidence the boy tried to feed the coyote.
The boy’s caretaker was watching and, when she saw the coyote, she ran up and kicked the animal while screaming, Gandurski said. Two passersby also helped free the boy from the coyote, who escaped.
Hours later, a man went to Northwestern Hospital and told officials he’d been walking in Steeterville when a coyote came up to him from behind him and bit his buttocks, police said. The man had a scratch on his butt and was treated and released.
That incident hasn’t been confirmed as a coyote bite because Animal Control officials haven’t been able to speak with the man yet, Gandurski said.
“Any attack is very, very rare,” Gandurski said. “It hasn’t happened in probably more than 10 years on a person” in Chicago.
Dr. Tom Wake, the interim administrator of Cook County Animal and Rabies Control, said the chance of rabies from a coyote is “very, very, very slight.”
On Thursday, after someone reported seeing a coyote in Oz Park, nearby Lincoln Park High School kept students in class so they wouldn’t have to go outside while switching rooms. Police and Animal Control officers were “canvassing that area” but there were no confirmed sightings of a coyote, Gandurski said.
Besides that, a coyote was rescued after being seen in Monroe Harbor on Tuesday, and there have been more sightings reported over the last week or so.
WGN even got video of a coyote with a noticeable limp approaching a cameraman early Thursday, just hours after the reported attack in Steeterville.
The coyote that attacked the boy did not appear to have a limp, Gandurski said, meaning it might have been a different animal than the one seen Thursday morning in Steeterville by WGN.
It would be difficult to find and confirm which coyote bit the child, Gandurski said, but if he or she was found and determined to be too comfortable around people then the animal would be humanely removed.
People who do see a coyote shouldn’t approach it or interact with it and should call 311, Gandurski said. If a coyote comes up to you, Gandurski advised making loud noises and trying to make yourself look big to frighten off the animal.
But coyotes typically prey on small animals, like rats and rabbits, and try to avoid people, Gandurski said. At this time of year, they’re likely just looking for a food source.
That means you can keep coyotes away by securing your garbage and not leaving any food scraps outside, Gandurski said. Those with pets can protect them by keeping them leashed and not letting them outside unsupervised.
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