As more and more people shelter-in-place during the coronavirus outbreak, streets are empty and levels of pollutants are dropping. This has resulted in some pleasant surprises which are being documented on social media and in the news. One common theme is that deserted streets have resulted in wild animals being seen more often in urban areas.

Seeing coyotes in urban areas in not unheard of. Major cities like New York and Los Angeles regularly report sightings of coyotes. For some specialists, the sightings of coyotes reported since many states when into a shelter-in-place order might just be a result of more people being at home. Stan McTaggart, Wildlife Diversity Program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources notes, “It’s also likely that since more people are staying home from work, they are observing wildlife and noticing things that may be happening (every day or week) while they are normally at work. Changes in our behavior may alter the daily movements of some wildlife, but the wildlife have been nearby all along.” Even so, seeing a coyote in the normally busy urban core of Chicago during the day isn’t a sight normally seen as this Twitter user capture:

On March 24, in the first week of Illinois’ new stay-at-home protocol, Brian Roe was driving to work when he saw what he thought was a big dog moving down the middle of a quiet Roscoe Village street.

“It wasn’t a dog. It was a coyote,” said Roe, a stand-up comic whose day job is in construction. He followed the coyote, shot a distant video of it through his car window and posted it to Twitter. “I’ve heard people talking about how, in Italy, animals are returning to certain areas, and then that thing kind of appeared.”

“It’s the Wild West out here now,” he wrote in the tweet, above the video.

Eight days later, Peter Mott was up early, making coffee in his Northbrook kitchen, when he saw what he knew immediately was not a dog on his back porch.

“I looked up. I saw the coyote there,” said Mott, who works in financial software sales. “I was like, ‘Holy cow!’ I had seen coyotes in the neighborhood but never when they had come that close.”

“Maybe,” he said, “the animals are a bit more emboldened.”

Social media these days would have you believe the wild animals are stepping into the void left by humans as they stay indoors more to try to slow the person-to-person spread of COVID-19.

“I haven’t really seen evidence of that myself,” said Stephanie Touzalin, a naturalist at the Du Page County Forest Preserve District’s Willowbrook Wildlife Center. “The reality is these animals are already living so closely with us and are able to survive in very urban areas already.”

Plus, it’s spring. “This is a very active time already for a lot of wildlife because they’re gearing up for baby and breeding season,” she said. “Once they actually have their pups and they’re taking care of them in the den then we start to see less activity for a bit until the fall.”

Stan McTaggart, Wildlife Diversity Program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, responded to queries via email. “First, I wouldn’t describe coyotes being observed in places where people aren’t as ‘brazen,’” he said. “I would describe that as normal coyote behavior. Coyotes are intelligent and adaptable animals that generally avoid close encounters with people, so it’s not at all surprising that they (and other wildlife) are in places where people aren’t.

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