The man most often hired to handle critter crises in the Quad-Cities says the area's coyote population is growing, but that is not necessarily worrisome news. Bill Christman of Christman's Wildlife Services said he is working on a plan for removing two coyotes from a central Rock Island neighborhood because the pair has tangled with neighborhood dogs. He suspects the coyotes have been aggressive toward house pets because, this time of year, they likely have pups to protect.
If the coyotes had not injured a pet, he said, he likely would advise city officials simply to let them be.
"The coyote thing is nothing new," Christman said. "There's quite a few coyotes in town. People will say to me, 'I saw a coyote in the field near my condo.' My reply is, 'So?' Unless it's absolutely necessary, because there's a bunch of kids in the area, there's been a documented attack on a pet and the animal isn't acting afraid of people, I don't see a problem.
"I think this case (in Rock Island) is a legitimate cause for removal, because of multiple attacks. The thing is, once the resident coyote moves away, another one is likely to take over the territory."
It is especially likely, he said, because of the overall increase in the Quad-City coyote population.
"I think it has increased with the deer population," Christman said. "The deer population has just skyrocketed, and that brings in the predators."
Rock Island Police Deputy Chief Jason Foy said his department is working on a strategy for dealing with the pair of coyotes that have injured residents' dogs. The deer population, he said, is a separate matter.
City officials have not yet decided what to do about a considerable increase in the number of deer that now roam city streets, especially near ravines. A helicopter was used recently to get a headcount of deer in Rock Island, and it showed nearly 100 deer per square mile in some areas. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources recommends city deer populations between 10 and 12 per square mile and 20 to 30 in farm and woodlands.
Even so, Foy said, there was a decrease in deer versus vehicle accidents in Rock Island last year over the year prior.
The coyote matter is getting the police department's attention, he said, because of the run-ins with dogs.
"I've definitely noticed more coyotes today than we had 20 years ago," Foy said. "This is the first time I recall having a problem, though."
Christman said it would take a small pack of coyotes to take down a deer, and the animals prefer smaller prey, such as rabbits. Attacks on humans are rare, but coyotes are known to kill cats and dogs, given the chance.
He has seen wild animals in the Quad-Cities that would be of much greater concern, except that they rarely are seen.
"In 2008, Moline had a deer that had been slaughtered, and I still stand by the fact it was a wolf," he said. "Coyotes did come and finish off the carcass. I caught a wolf on a trail camera in Andalusia. Are they super abundant? No. Are they here? Yes."
While he does not expect to see a boon in wolf sightings, Christman said he is not surprised to hear so many coyote reports.
"It's not just because of the growing deer population," he said. "When their habitat disappears, they become more obvious. I took two out of a subdivision near Illini Hospital (Genesis) in East Moline not long ago.
"The place used to be woods, and it was developed into a subdivision, so that's what you can expect."