1 coyote caught late Thursday, but search continues for others after boy bitten day earlier
By 10:20 p.m. Thursday, Animal Care and Control had captured a coyote in the 1700 block of North Fremont Street, police said.
It felt like a scene from the movie “The Fugitive” on Thursday, as police and city Animal Care and Control crews combed the lakefront for multiple coyotes that had attacked humans a day earlier.
And by 10:20 p.m., Animal Control had captured one coyote in the 1700 block of North Fremont Street, police said.
The animal was tranquilized and taken to Animal Control for evaluation, officials said.
At that time, officials were still responding to reports of other coyotes roaming the city, according to unconfirmed Chicago police scanner reports.
It was all set in motion by two separate coyote incidents — a 6-year-old boy bitten near Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on Wednesday afternoon and, a few hours later, a man reporting to police that a coyote had bitten him on the buttocks.
That’s why the area around the nature museum — site of the first attack — was swarming with animal control workers Thursday.
Shortly after noon, five inspectors from Chicago Animal Care and Control and one warden from Cook County Animal Control fanned out, catch poles in hand, to look for a coyote den.
One inspector said they would spot the den by looking for “bedding” usually made from leaves, twigs and any available garbage. They also were on the lookout for animal carcasses or “any signs of coyote traffic.”
A reported sighting of one in Oz Park prompted a brief lockdown of two nearby schools.
Students were kept from going outside Lincoln Park High School, 2001 N. Orchard St., and Lincoln Elementary, 615 W. Kemper Pl., while Chicago Animal Care and Control worked to confirm the sighting, Chicago Public School officials said.
That reported “sighting” in Oz Park had not been confirmed, one inspector said. Another added chances were “slim” they’d catch the animal in the near future.
“If a starving coyote was around here, he’d be snatching up that Pomeranian,” the inspector said, pointing to a woman walking a dog nearby.
First coyote attack in decades
The boy was bitten multiple times about 4 p.m. He was on a walking path just north of the nature museum entrance when he ran up a hill a few steps ahead of his caretaker and came face-to-face with the coyote, which attacked.
“The caretaker said she was kicking the coyote and yelling really loudly, screaming the entire time,” Kelley Gandurski, head of Chicago Animal Care and Control, said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Dominic Bruce and Ryan Taylor, two DePaul University sophomores who run on the school’s track and cross country teams, were conditioning on the lakefront trail when they witnessed the attack on the boy and quickly sprang into action.
“We heard this screaming and when we looked across the street, we noticed that this woman was pulling a child back from the coyote,” said Bruce. “So we ran right across the street and the coyote kind of skirted off into the brush near the museum.”
Bruce said the boy and the caretaker were covered in blood. “He was bleeding pretty badly, obviously not deadly amounts but quite a lot.”
The duo then flagged down a nearby CTA bus and Bruce used his sweatshirt to apply pressure to a bite wound on the boy’s head. As Taylor called 911 and helped the boy onto the bus, Bruce ran into the brush near the museum and scared off the animal with a stick.
‘Never seen anything like it’
Growing up in Leonard, Michigan, a rural village north of Detroit, Bruce had many interactions with coyotes — but this one was different.
“They usually just run away when you see them,” he said. “It was pretty surprising that it would attack someone that wasn’t threatening it at all.”
Taylor, of southwest suburban New Lennox, noted that he had “never seen anything like that before.”
Gandurski confirmed two good Samaritans had scared off the coyote, which had apparently been concealed in tall prairie grass next to the path when the boy came upon it.
“It could have been that the child surprised the coyote that was sitting there,” Gandurski said. There’s no evidence the child tried to feed the coyote or had food on him, she said.
Gandurski agreed with Bruce’s assessment that the animal was “not acting like a coyote, if it was brazen enough to attack a child,” and noted that coyotes usually keep their distance from humans.
Bruce said the boy already appeared to be doing better while on the bus and asked to go home, but he was taken to Lurie Children’s Hospital for treatment. He was reported to be in good spirits Thursday, Gandurksi said.
The boy’s mother declined to comment Thursday evening.
Limping coyote spotted
Gandurski said there had been reports of a limping coyote roaming the area, but witnesses didn’t notice a limp in the coyote that attacked the boy.
“We have all of our force out right now canvassing by foot — along with Cook County Animal Control as well as Chicago police — the entire Peggy Notebaert area,” she said early Thursday afternoon.
In the second incident, a 32-year-old man walked into Northwestern Memorial Hospital Wednesday with a scratch on his buttocks. He told authorities he was walking in the 700 block of North Fairbanks Court when a coyote bit him, Chicago police said. The exact time of the incident was unclear.
The man, in good condition, was expected to be released from the hospital, police said.
Animal experts had yet to speak to the man to determine if it actually was a coyote that attacked him.
There hasn’t been a coyote attack in Chicago in decades, Gandurski said.
Rabies not suspected
Thomas Wake, who heads up rabies control for the county, said the disease shouldn’t be of concern in this instance.
“There has not been a case of rabies in any other animal [in CookCounty] except bats since 1954. The chance of rabies is very, very, very slight,” he said.
Coyotes can weigh 35 to 40 pounds. There’s been no evidence of an uptick in the coyote population, he added. There are reportedly thousands of coyotes now living in the Chicago area.
If a coyote is caught, it might be relocated, Gandurski said.
“This is an issue that is causing a lot of alarm in the community,” said Ald. Michele Smith, whose North Side 43rd ward is where the boy was bitten.
Smith said her office has received about 25 calls during the the last two days from ward residents who’ve spotted a coyote — including some who say they saw the animal limping.
What to do if you see a coyote
Seth Magle, director of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute, said coyote attacks on humans are generally “extremely rare,” but are more likely to happen when an animal finds Itself in a “desperate situation” or is being fed.
“Or perhaps they are being fed by people, which often leads to attacks, when they start to associate humans and food,” Magle said.
If a coyote approaches, make lots of noise or throw something at the animal, he said.
“I wouldn’t try to create any actual harm [to the coyote], but if you’re walking your dog and you’ve got a bag of dog poop, that could be something you could throw,” Magle said.
Neighbors take precautions
Residents who live near the attacks were coming up with their own strategies. While they weren’t necessarily shaking in their boots, they were being cautious.
Jackie Fitzgerald, 73, who lives in Streeterville not far from where the man reported being bitten, said she’ll probably bring something that makes noise when she walks before dawn to an exercise class Friday morning.
“So I’m hoping they catch this little critter before [Friday] morning,” she said.
As the search continued in Lincoln Park, nearby parents clutching infants cast wary glances into the winter thickets bordering the nature museum.
Amy Nussbaum, 39, of Lake View, who was pushing two of her four young children in a stroller Thursday, said she was “not worried” about them.
“I’m worried about my small, 9-pound Dachshund,” Nussbaum said.
Contributing: Matthew Hendrickson