“Don’t feed the animals.”
That was the message at an emergency community meeting called by Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) last week at Columbus Park.
Representatives from Chicago’s Animal Care and Control Department, Cook County Animal and Rabies Control, the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Park District and Streets and Sanitation Department all attended.
The meeting was called just days after a 3-year-old was bitten in the face – possibly by a coyote – near Columbus Park.
The message was consistent across the various government agencies: stop feeding wild animals, don’t litter, and keep your garbage under control.
That didn’t sit well with some residents.
Monique Williams said she would never consider feeding wild animals, and the meeting wasn’t addressing the concerns she has with the city.
Williams asked how residents are supposed to keep their garbage under control when it’s picked up only once a week.
Residents can request another garbage cart, said Ald. Graham. The forms were provided at the meeting, along with information from each department.
But Williams said it’s not that simple.
She’s had neighbors request another garbage can, only for the Streets and Sanitation Department workers who bring the receptacle put it back on the truck after seeing the neighbor already had one, Williams said.
Austin resident Dwayne Truss serves on the Columbus Park Advisory Council, which expressed concerns during the summer about overgrown shrubbery and coyote sightings at Columbus Park, but the Chicago Park District never addressed them, he said.
The encounter the 3-year-old boy had last month was the first time the neighborhood has had a problem with a coyote, Ald. Graham said. She said the city has – and will – euthanize coyotes who are too comfortable with humans.
“That’s the only way to solve the problem,” she said.
She reminded the group that the city and county animal control departments and the police are working together to watch Columbus Park for coyote sightings, but residents need to do their part by not feeding wildlife.
Graham also said residents shouldn’t be afraid to use Columbus Park and advised they stamp their feet to scare the coyotes.
Dr. Donna Alexander, director of Cook County Animal and Rabies Control, said there will be an increase in coyote pairs because they’re entering their mating season, which goes from December to February.
Coyotes are part of the ecosystem here, she said, and they only become a threat to humans when people assert ourselves into their environment by feeding them.
Feeding coyotes makes them reliant on humans, in turn putting humans in danger, she said.
After the boy’s recent attack, signs reading, “Please do not feed the animals” were put up in the park.