CITY HALL — Coyotes and other wildlife roaming Chicago neighborhoods proved a topic of concern among aldermen during a City Council hearing on the Commission on Animal Care and Control on Monday.
The city’s animal care and control department has responded to 2,001 calls for coyotes and 1,039 calls related to raccoons, possums and skunks, acting Executive Director Mamadou Diakhate told aldermen on Monday.
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) said her far South Side ward has “quite a few cats, but now we’re getting coyotes.”
The coyotes she’s seen have been roaming around “midday into the evening” and she noted one “wanted to eat my dog.”
The agency sends officers to investigate any time they get a call about a coyote, Diakhate said. Responding officers will attempt to scare the coyote away or tranquilize or move the animal if it presents a threat.
“As much as we don’t want them around us, they don’t want us around them either,” Diakhate said. He also suggested Austin or anyone else with a small dog lift it up “to make the dog look bigger.”
Austin was not satisfied with the suggestion. “This coyote, you never know when this thing is going to jump out of the bushes,” she said.
Ald. Michael Scott (24th) said the fresh-water source in Douglass Park in his ward attracts coyotes and raccoons, and requested the city get a “better grasp” on the animals.
“Sometimes they do branch out and there’s a senior building that’s not very far from Douglass Park. Last winter they were kind of going over to the building and I had a lot of concerned seniors there,” Scott said.
Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) noted “we’ve had some coyotes down in my ward as well.”
The city’s coyote response affects how quickly officers can respond to stray dog calls, another cause for concern among aldermen.
Animal control currently takes 17 to 18 days to respond to a stray dog. Diakhate pointed to the urgency of coyote calls that “need to be serviced first” before officers can respond to the call of a stray animal, which is one of the lower priority calls.
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) said he is “concerned” that the budget “doesn’t address this growing trend of farm animals and other livestock that we keep seeing appearing inside the City of Chicago’s boundaries.” Farm animals include pigs, goats, horses, “things that cost us way more” to care for than what the city budgets, he said.
Lopez asked what Diakhate has planned to ensure “taxpayers aren’t being unduly overburdened with food bills” that could cost hundreds of dollars daily.
The proposed 2021 budget doesn’t help “resolve that issue with farm animals,” Diakhate said.
However, one way to help fix the problem would be “strong legislation when it comes down to farm animals” that includes high license fees and fines.
Diakhate also gave aldermen an update on Nunu, the horse that belongs to the “Dreadhead Cowboy,” and was injured after its owner rode the horse on the Dan Ryan Expressway in September.
“Nunu is improving, [and] doing better,” Diakhate said. The horse faces “no risk” of being euthanized at this time, he said.
In addition to responding to calls for wild animals, the commission is responsible for sheltering animals and pet placement. The commission’s budget is proposed nearly flat around $7.6 million, and it stands to lose three full-time equivalent positions.
The commission “is positioned to take in around 10,000 animals” for all of 2020, and next year plans to increase its spay and neuter capacity by 10 percent and “establish a Pet Food Bank to keep pets and their humans together and to help reduce the shelter population” with Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control.