A Chicago police officer and a Chicago Animal Care and Control worker carry a coyote out in a green bag after tranquilizing the animal behind a home on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. Authorities on the hunt for coyotes in downtown Chicago after two reported attacks, including one where passersby said they had to pull a wild canine off of a 6-year-old boy who was bitten in the head, captured one animal Thursday night on the city's North Side.(Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Official: DNA test to determine if coyote bit Chicago child

January 10, 2020 - 2:28 pm

CHICAGO (AP) — DNA tests to determine if a coyote captured on Chicago's North Side is the same animal that attacked a 6-year-old boy will take weeks to complete, a city animal control official said Friday.

Jenny Schlueter of the Chicago Animal Care and Control said the coyote that was captured Thursday night will be held at a Chicago-area animal rehabilitation center until the tests are completed. Kelley Gandurski, the agency's executive director said at a news conference Thursday that the coyote would eventually be relocated outside the city.

The animal was captured after being chased by Chicago police and animal control officers for several blocks. It was shot with a tranquilizer dart and taken in an animal control van to the animal rehabilitation center.

Schlueter said another coyote was spotted in the same part of the city on Thursday night but it eluded capture. Animal control officers continued to search for coyotes in the Lincoln Park neighborhood where a coyote attacked the 6-year-old boy, as well as downtown where a coyote was spotted and a man reported he was also bitten this week.

Experts say the majority of cases in which people believe they or their pets have been bitten by coyotes turn out to have been attacks by dogs, but Chicago officials remain confident, after talking to witnesses, that the animal that attacked the boy on Wednesday was a coyote. If that is the case, it would be the first confirmed coyote attack on a human in Illinois, according to a wildlife biologist with the Urban Coyote Research Project.

The two reported attacks, several recent coyote sightings and the rescue from Lake Michigan of a young coyote by the fire department's marine unit have focused intense attention on the city's wild coyote population. On Thursday, after a coyote was spotted in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, officials briefly locked down two schools to prevent students from going outside.

At the same time, Gandurski and others sought to calm the city by stressing that coyotes have been roaming the city for decades and that they pose little risk to people.

They said attacks on humans are extremely rare and typically the animals are so afraid of people that their first instinct is to run away.

“They really thrive in cities by avoiding us, by moving around and eating rats and rabbits and squirrels and not getting in the face of any humans," said Seth Magle, director of the Lincoln Park Zoo's Urban Wildlife Institute. “We know that we live around a large number of coyotes, and almost all of them are never going to create any problems or hazards for anyone.”

But, he and others have said there may be circumstances in which the animals could become more bold. For example, there were reports that the coyote spotted downtown near Northwestern Memorial Hospital was limping, something that experts say might make a coyote change its behavior because it no longer has the speed to capture small animals as it typically might and search for scraps that could put it closer to humans.

Magle said another factor could be the weather.

“It's also the dead of winter, and some of these animals may just be in a desperate situation, where they're really trying to find food,” he said.

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