The search for an elusive stray dog has resulted in the temporary closure of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s aeration station known as Harry “Bus” Yourell Waterfall Park at 117th and Harlem in Worth.
The popular park, which has been cordoned off for a month, is adjacent to the Calumet-Sag Channel and Water’s Edge golf course. The walking paths and wide lawns around the central waterfall pool are a big attraction for people, as well as geese, ducks and seagulls attracted to the flowing waters. People often feed them there, despite warnings not to do so.
After a 16-year-old boy reported being bitten by what he described as a coyote there in late April, the village of Worth sent out notices in June water bills informing residents of the incident. The boy said he and a friend left a walking trail, and climbed down the banks of the canal to get closer to a beaver. When they climbed back up, they said a coyote was standing in front of them, and bit the teen, causing a minor wound.
Several area residents questioned why the park was suddenly closed earlier this month. But according to a notice published on the village website at www.villageofworth.com, it will be closed until further notice while a suspect dog is tracked down. The note states that village officials working with Cook County Animal Control have determined that while coyotes are longtime residents of the area, the problem animal was likely a mixed-breed dog, such as a German shepherd-husky mix that resembles a coyote.
The note states that together with the eyewitness account and an examination of biological material in the area, Dr. Donna Alexander, administrator of the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control, and Stanley D. Gehrt, an expert on urban coyotes, “are confident there is a mixed-breed dog (probably German shepherd-husky or malamute) that has been stalking the area.
“It would be easy to mistake the dog for a coyote. Especially when someone is probably in panic mode, trying to fend off an attack. The park will remain closed until further notice while Cook County tries to trap the dog,” according to the village statement.
Becky Schlikerman, a county spokesperson, said Tuesday that, “The traps have been set and nothing has been captured by the traps. No sightings have been reported to Cook County Animal and Rabies Control.”
“It is not unusual for the department to assist municipalities who request assistance with specialized animal control issues,” said Schlikerman, emphasizing that Cook County Animal and Rabies Control is assisting the Village of Worth and is not the lead agency on this matter.
She also noted that “humane traps” are being used, and said that it will be up to the village and the MWRD to decide when to reopen the park.
According to the village statement, “(Alexander and Gehrt) are fully aware of the fact there are coyotes wandering around the Village of Worth and there are more than 2,000 coyotes living in Cook County. The coyotes have lived here for many, many years…. and decades of research indicate coyotes and humans can live together, side by side, and coyote attacks on people are isolated and very rare,” the statement continued. “It would be virtually impossible to trap and remove every coyote in Cook County. Dr. Alexander has indicated if a coyote is removed from a certain area another one will simply move in and take that space.”
Village officials said more information about living in close proximity to coyotes may be obtained at online at urbancoyoteresearch.com.