I recently saw a coyote in Forest Park.

In addition to at least one coyote, Forest Park is home to various species of mammals besides homo sapiens.

I assume we have rats and mice, although I haven’t seen any. Squirrels and rabbits are numerous. I have seen possums on multiple occasions. I have seen deer in the last two months in the forest preserve (Grand Army of the Republic Woods). I assume raccoons are here, but I haven’t seen them.

Last September I wrote about a skunk that had lived in my landlord’s garden. More precisely the burrow went under the neighbor’s shed. I hadn’t seen or smelled the skunk for a few weeks when I wrote about it, so I speculated it had been hit by a car or died.

While shoveling my walk in the winter, I talked to my neighbor about the skunk. He said there were actually three skunks. He knew because the village removed them. He requested the village remove the skunks because they bothered his cats.

Why does the Village of Forest Park pay to remove animals, like skunks? At a Village Council meeting there seemed to be consensus that our elected officials like to make people happy.

The Village of Forest Park has one employee that does animal trapping in addition to his other duties. One of the council members (I think it was Mayor Anthony Calderone) suggested it might be more efficient to combine with other municipalities and have one person specialized in trapping and removing wild animals.

Why not eliminate the service completely? What is the compelling interest of the village in removing skunks, possums, raccoons, etc. that offend the sensibilities of some Forest Park residents?

The elected officials like providing the service. OK. There are an infinite number of things government could do for a few people while everybody else pays for it. Why does government feel compelled to do this one?

Businesses that trap and remove wild animals exist. My yellow pages lists dozens under “pest control.” If you have a possum under your porch and it really bugs you, why shouldn’t you pay to have it removed? Does Forest Park pay to remove cockroaches, mice, rats or termites from residences or businesses? The  public has an interest in having these species exterminated.

Government doesn’t pay to exterminate pests that are bonafide threats to the community, but it does pay for removing animals that offend peoples’ sense of aesthetics.

And the politicians like doing it because it gives them a chance to take money from the many to ingratiate the politicians to a few.

But back to the coyote….

How unusual is it for a coyote to be roaming in Forest Park? I asked my father, a biologist specializing in Chicago-area ecology. He reminded my that one coyote wandered to downtown Chicago where it sought refuge under a taxi cab. He also told me that in the last year a tagged wolf wandered from the Upper Peninsula to northern Illinois.

  What my father thought more noteworthy was that Forest Park has beavers in the Des Plaines River between Madison and Roosevelt.

  I decided to see if this was still true. I walked down the west side of the Des Plaines River starting at Madison. Before reaching the Eisenhower an amiable Cook County Deputy Sheriff told me I wasn’t welcome behind the county buildings at the Maybrook facility.

Dad was right. Not only are there trees that have been felled by beaver, but beaver have gnawed the bark from trees recently.

The fresh gnawing is a lighter color than the wood and bark that has been exposed for a long time.

I also saw Canadian Geese. No longer rare, they are considerably more majestic taking to flight from the river than doing their business on the lawn.

I also saw a particularly large bird footprint in the mud. The foot was about as big as my hand. I assume it was a Great Blue Heron since it lacked webbing.

I also found a collectible blue bottle labeled “Emerson Drug Co, Bromo-selzer”.

Hiking along the Des Plaines south of Madison is tough. I would not recommend taking children along this route without first checking it yourself. It’s steep, with loose material that provides poor footing.

Where was the coyote? It ran from near the river into Concordia Cemetery in the middle of the day the Sunday before last. What’s it eat? Rabbits and squirrels provide at least part of the diet, I expect.

Has anybody heard coyote’s howl locally?