News and stuff about Lake Forest and Lake Bluff

Ask The Gazebo: Rabies In Coyotes?

After we posted stories last week about a coyote attack in Highland Park, a reader followed up by sending several photos of a coyote that was stealthily wandering through his back yard in Ingleside. We also heard from a reader who wanted to know what to do if your dog is being attacked by a coyote, and whether we should be concerned about rabies if a dog is attacked.

We asked Michael Adam, senior biologist with the Lake County Health Department, to answer these questions. Here’s what he said:

“If your dog is attacked by a coyote, do not try to physically separate the animals. Make as much noise as possible, throw things, turn lights on, etc. That will hopefully take the coyote’s attention away from the dog.

“Rabies in coyotes is rare. The county does not test coyotes for rabies in part because we do not capture them. We test for rabies in bats and skunks, primarily, although other mammals such as coyotes, fox or raccoons may carry the disease as well.”

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Photos submitted by GN reader Bill Cunningham


  1. Beautiful photos of an amazing animal. It is most likely hunting for mice, rats, voles, etc.

  2. I just attended Dr. Stanley Gehrt’s excellent presentation on the results of his research on coyotes in Cook County, “The Coyote Project”.

    As for coyotes attacking dogs, (understandable as our dogs are canine competitors) it is most common during mating in February and when pups are young in April.

    There is virtually no rabies infection in the midwest population. East coast coyotes infected with the coyote strain of the rabies virus can be VERY aggressive towards other canines and humans as well. It sounds, though, as if this isn’t a concern for us.

    When walking with your dog in a natural area, be aware that you may well find yourselves in some other canine’s territory and that he or she may not appreciate the intrusion. Just pick up a stick, make noise, and keep moving on.

    When encountering coyote on your own territory, it is important that we reinforce their natural fear of humans. Make them unwelcome with loud noises, banging pots & pans, use bright lights, yell at them and let them know that your property and especially your small pets should not become part of the coyote’s daily route.

    Most importantly DON’T FEED COYOTES! Outdoor pet food should be taken in at dark. Coyotes who loose their fear of humans are the ones that must, unfortunately be relocated or destroyed.

    They are beautiful wild animals and we should work to coexist with them and to keep them wild!

    Bear in mind that there is no such thing as eliminating coyotes. They’re here to stay – particularly in urban areas – and we simply have to deal with them as part of our environment. And vice versa.

    • Larry,
      This is most informative. Thank you!

      And to answer another reader’s question about dog attacks vs. coyote attacks. The Lake County Animal Control data from 2009 is as follows:
      –domestic animal to domestic animal bites: 557
      –wild animal to domestic animal bites: 63 (this number includes bites by raccoons, opossums, coyotes, etc. )

  3. I find it interesting that while there seems to be so much concern about coyotes in Lake County, the City of Chicago has planted them in neighborhoods, to control rodents. Chicago people have little concern about them. I wish someone could provide the numbers of people bitten by unleashed or unruly pet dogs, compared to those by coyotes, last year.

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