When a little boy is attacked by a coyote in our ‘City in a Garden’

Wild animals in Chicago have a lot more reason to fear us than we have to fear them, though that’s no solace at all to the little boy.

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A Chicago Animal Care and Control inspector, (foreground) and warden from Cook County Animal Control (rear) fan out around the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park in the search for a coyote. Jan. 9, 2020.

A Chicago Animal Care and Control inspector, (foreground) and warden from Cook County Animal Control (rear) fan out around the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park in the search for a coyote on Jan. 9.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times

Most Chicagoans wouldn’t be too surprised to see a big possum saunter up the stairs to their second-floor back deck, as happened to us one summer evening not too long ago.

Wildlife of all kinds are often spotted in Chicago.

That includes coyotes traveling through Lincoln Park, as we were reminded this past week by the rescue of coyote from Lake Michigan and an attack on a child by another coyote.

We live in a city that is famously, as the motto says, an “Urbs in Horto” — a City in a Garden. Chicago boasts some 3,800 acres of natural areas. With that comes opossums, squirrels, rabbits, foxes and — for better or worse — coyotes.

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An estimated 2,000 to 4,000 coyotes live in Cook County, and they’re notoriously shy creatures that rarely attack people. The attack on the 6-year-old boy, who was bitten in the head, as well as a reported attack the same day on a man walking down a sidewalk, were the first in Chicago in decades.

As Kelley Gandurski, head of Chicago Animal Care and Control, put it, the animal “was not acting like a coyote if it was brazen enough to attack a child.”

As a rule, wildlife in Chicago have a whole lot more reason to fear us than we have to fear them, though we know that’s no solace at all to the little boy — or the grown man — who were attacked this week.

If you do encounter a coyote, the experts say, don’t turn your back or run. Hold your arms out wide and make yourself look big. Throw something to scare it off. And never, of course, try to feed it.

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