Unlike rookie athletes and fraternity pledges, hazing is the best way to deal with coyotes, say suburban officials trying to educate residents about coexisting with the wild canines.
After two coyote attacks on dogs in Riverside, Village Manager Peter Scalera and Police Chief Thomas Weitzel are working on a policy to collect information about coyote sightings and inform residents what to do if they see one.
Hazing refers to ways a person lets the coyote know the animal isn't welcome, such as making eye contact and yelling, clapping and stomping, or throwing rocks toward — though not hitting — the animal.
"Noise is what really scares them off," Scalera said. "The worst thing you can do is run away."
He also said that if someone sees a coyote while walking a dog, the dog should be picked up if possible. Coyotes have been known to attack dogs on leashes but not the humans walking them.
Michael Dzugan, Wheaton's assistant city manager, emphasized that food should not be left outdoors. People may think they're feeding a neighborhood cat, but they might be attracting coyotes, he said.
Wheaton enacted a coyote policy about two years ago, including information for residents and a form that seeks data on where and when coyotes are spotted.
Scalera expects Riverside's policy to be finalized soon, and then it will be posted on the village's website and published in brochures. In the meantime, residents should report coyote sightings to the police nonemergency phone number, 708-447-2127.
The village was prompted into action after two attacks in a month, including an incident Jan. 25 when four coyotes charged a dog in its backyard, even breaking a window and damaging a screen door before the owner shot at the coyotes with a pellet gun. The coyotes escaped before police arrived. On Jan. 3, a puppy died after what is believed to be a coyote attack.
"We've received a number of calls from residents who were concerned it would happen again," Scalera said.
Most sightings have occurred near downtown Riverside, which is bordered by the Des Plaines River and forest preserve.
Brad Lundsteen, owner of Suburban Wildlife Control, which is a licensed nuisance wildlife trapper, has seen complaints of coyotes increase in the past 20 years. Most of the time the coyotes are relocated, but if they have mange, a disease that can spread among other animals, or if the coyote has killed a dog or cat, the coyote may be put down.
Especially during mating season, February through April, coyotes will perceive dogs to be threats and may return to yards where they know dogs live, Lundsteen said.
"Coyotes are definitely more and more prolific," Lundsteen said.
He said the increase in coyotes is contributing to a decrease in pheasants and fox. Lundsteen believes his own Dachshund, who was confined to his backyard with an electric fence, was carried off by a coyote a few weeks ago.