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The Tally Ho

Friday, November 11, 2005

Guess who's moving in now?

I'm always tickled when my little town makes the NYTimes. This week the news is about the proliferating suburban coyote in Cook County. Yes! It's a boon for the topsy-turvy ecosystem of the suburbs, where Canadian geese were threatening to bury the landscape (literally). Lawrence Downes writes:
Here is what is really strange: Humans have barely noticed. Egg-rustling, night-howling varmints are raising litters in storm drains, golf courses, parks and cemeteries. They are sometimes heard but seldom seen. In cities, they keep to themselves and work nights. There are coyotes, Professor Gehrt says, living in the Chicago Loop.

You could call that sneaky. Or you could call it discreet. Professor Gehrt said that one surprising discovery of the study was how little danger the coyote poses to his unwitting human neighbors. "The risk is quite low, as long as we don't monkey with their behavior," he said. If you assert yourself when you see one - by yelling, cursing and throwing sticks - it will respect your space and lie low. The coyote's tendency to avoid people - and more important, raccoons - has made rabies a nonissue, Professor Gehrt said, with only one case of coyote-to-human transmission ever recorded.

Coyotes will behave, he said, as long as people do not feed them. Leave nothing tasty outside in an open trash can or food dish, and definitely nothing small and fluffy at the end of a leash. Professor Gehrt says with confidence that the sensible suburban toddler has little to fear from the suburban coyote, but he will not say the same for the suburban Shih Tzu.

The Tribune this week is also running a series on alleys, and alley wildlife. They make no mention of coyotes in the city (as for them living in the Loop, I'll believe it when I hear it). But as much as the city dwellers try to ignore and the suburbanites try to control our landscapes to death, there are always animals and plantlife to outsmart us. I love it. As for the Shih Tzus: those who insist on keeping the foolishly-bred dogs should monitor them. I still believe that rowdy teen boys are more a risk to my pets than coyotes would be, but hey--that's because I have smart pets.


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