The two-pound coyote pup looked every bit like a small domestic puppy Wednesday at the Penny Pond Forest Preserve in Barrington Hills while being held by animal rehabber Dawn Keller of Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.
The coyote, now named Peace, snuggled into Keller’s arm adorably, and when she placed him on the ground for a second, he made a dash despite the fact there was a cast on his right rear leg.
Keller has teamed with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police, Cook County Forest Preserve Police and the Humane Society of the United States to try and bring attention to the May 11 incident that injured the pup at the Penny Pond preserve in Barrington Hills.
“It was a heinous wildlife crime,” said Sgt. Jed Whitchurch, IDNR’s supervisor for this region, referring to how a fisherman found a burlap bag in Penny Pond, and when he fished it out of the water, there were seven one-pound coyote pups just a few weeks old that all looked dead.
The fisherman called Cook County Forest Preserve Police, and an officer arrived to pick up the coyote pups, according to Lambrini Lukidis, communications director for the forest preserve. She said they are not sure how long the bag was in the water, but six of the pups were found to have water in their lungs, a sign of drowning.
“The police officer put them into a bucket and that was when he noticed one was still alive,” she said. The surviving coyote, just over a pound and two to three weeks old, was taken to Golf Rose Animal Hospital in Schaumburg. Staffers there in turn called Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation in Barrington because they don’t have a permit to keep wild animals.
Say hello to Peace, who has doubled in size and is recovering better than expected, according to Keller.
“The leg was shattered — it was dangling and misshapen, and it was sticking out slightly because of a hip fracture,” she said. Flint Creek staff started treating it with fluids, anti-inflammatory and pain medication. On the second day, it opened its eyes. Nine days later, the leg was set in a cast, and the coyote was eating well and stable at that point.
“Coyotes are really misunderstood. We really struggled with a name because he had such a horrible life so far,” Keller said, adding that Flint Creek staffers turned it around and settled on Peace because they advocate for the peaceful coexistence of coyotes and other wildlife and humans.
“He broke my heart when he was rescued,” Keller said, adding that rescuers were not sure the pup was going to make it through the first 24 hours because it suffered from hypothermia. Its shattered leg was either the result of blunt-force trauma or someone swinging the animal around by it leg, Keller said after consulting with a veterinarian.
The IDNR gave Keller special permission to show off the coyote pup to media in the hopes of garnering more attention about the incident and hopefully more leads, according to Whitchurch.
“Cold-case wildlife cases are tough. We’re hoping with the financial reward someone with information will come forward and tell us,” he said. Whitchurch added that the news of the vicious incident is still spreading, so he is hoping more media attention will inform more people.
“It’s been quieter than we were hoping for. Some people are just hearing about it,” he said, noting that there are two leads received by investigators that could be promising, but it is hard because there is no description to work with yet and it happened in May.
Some people have wondered what difference it makes, since coyotes are one of the few animals in Illinois that can be hunted year round.
“This was not a humane act,” said Whitchurch. “This is an unusual case — it’s not the norm.”
According to the IDNR, about 7,000 coyotes are harvested each year in Illinois with 75 percent taken by hunters and 25 percent by trapping, which is restricted to fall and winter months. The liberal hunting season allows landowners to remove problem animals without having to obtain a special permit. IDNR biologists monitor the populations.
The IDNR also reports that coyotes are Illinois’ largest wild predator and were nearly extinct after the state was settled. They’re most abundant in the southern, southeastern and west-central parts of the state. Their numbers increased dramatically during the 1970s and early 1980s.
While they occasionally take livestock, poultry or pets, their diet consists of animal matter, but they often eat insects, fruits or berries. Rabbits and mice are important food sources, according to the IDNR.
A study in the Chicago area showed the following percentages of food groups occurring in coyotes’ diets: 43 percent small rodents; 22 percent white-tailed deer; 23 percent fruit; 18 percent eastern cottontail rabbit; and 13 percent birds. The presence of human-associated foods, like garbage, was rare, coming in at 2 percent, as was the presence of domestic cat, at 1 percent.
Wildlife experts say coyotes are valuable members of the wildlife community and do more good than harm where humans are concerned, and the IDNR believes trying to eliminate all of the coyotes in an area is not a realistic goal because voids will be filled quickly. Fortunately, removing individuals with “bad behaviors” usually solves a problem even when other coyotes continue to live in an area, according to the IDNR.
A reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the Barrington Hills case has been steadily climbing from just a few thousand dollars to $8,000 this week. Tips can be left on the IDNR police tip line at 1-877-236-7529.
The grisly incident attracted the attention of the Humane Society of the United States, which has put more than half of the reward money. It had doubled its standard cruelty reward from $2,500 after a board member for the organization agreed to fund the increase, according to HSUS.
“Anyone who could so callously maim and kill defenseless coyote pups and then toss them away like trash is a danger not only to animals but to the community at large,” said Marc Ayers, the society’s Illinois state director.
“We are hopeful that this reward will bring forward anyone with information about this heinous crime,” Ayers added. Getting the serious attention of law enforcement, prosecutors and residents in cases involving allegations of cruelty to animals is an essential step in protecting the community, according to a statement from the group.
The connection between animal cruelty and human violence is well documented, according to the group. Studies show a correlation between animal cruelty and all manner of other crimes, from narcotics and firearms violations to battery and sexual assault, Ayers said.
“It takes a special person to brutalize an animal, especially babies,” Keller said. “That’s not normal. It’s really sad.”
Whitlock said the cooperation between the various groups and agencies has been heartening.
“It’s nice to see the stakeholders coming together,” he said. “It’s great to see people care about our natural resources and Illinois wildlife.”