‘Zombie Dog’ Sightings Reported in Chicago Suburb

Police in the Chicago suburb of Hanover Park, Ill., have been getting lots of calls recently from concerned residents reporting sightings of what they referred to as severely malnourished or neglected dogs, or, as some were called, “zombie dogs.”

As it turns out, these animals aren’t stray or abused pets, but coyotes infected with mange caused by burrowing mites. This medical condition causes an intense skin rash that can lead to constant scratching and hair loss. Secondary infections can affect their vision, making it difficult to tell the difference between day and night.

“There is unfortunately an increase in sarcoptic mange in the urban coyote populations which has caused these normally noctural animals to become more active during the day,” the Hanover Park Police Department wrote on its Facebook page late last month. “Infected animals will often appear ‘mangy’ — which looks just like it sounds.”

While sarcoptic mange is treatable with medicated shampoo that kills the mites, the police department didn’t say whether the infected coyotes would be trapped and treated — and it doesn’t seem likely. A 2015 study found that coyotes with mange were more likely to spend time around humans. The researchers suggested that this could be prevented by treating mange “by application of an ointment, a therapy that is not likely to be conducted with wild animals. Further research might reveal other possibilities.”

Coyotes have been around Chicago and its environs for decades. In 2015, Dr. Stan Gehrt told the Chicago Tribune there were at least 2,000 coyotes living in downtown Chicago. Gehrt, director of the Cook County Coyote Project, said the population grew tenfold during the 1990s, when territorial coyotes pushed others out of the suburbs and into the city.

“Once they got there, they experienced higher reproduction, more food, and so now they have no reason to leave,” Gehrt said. “People think animals living in that habitat are less fit or sick, and the opposite is actually true.”

The same has happened in cities and suburbs across the country, which is why it’s so important to raise awareness so people don’t mistake coyotes for dogs, as they did in Hanover Park.

Not doing so can have tragic consequences. When coyotes began appearing in the Los Angeles suburb where I live, city officials began setting traps and killing them even inside a nature preserve! before reaching out to the community to let residents know they shouldn’t be leaving pet food or unattended small pets outside. By the time the city finally distributed information pamphlets, several cats and small dogs had been killed or injured.

Instead of using cruel and ineffective traps, many cities are keeping coyotes away by not feeding them, not leaving food or pets outdoors at night, securing trash cans and using hazing tactics such as yelling to scare them away.

As for the mangy coyotes in Hanover Park, the police department advised residents that they are not aggressive (coyotes have never bitten anyone in Illinois in the past 30 years), but the mange is highly contagious to other animals.

“Please DO NOT approach these animals or allow your pets to approach them,” the Hanover PD wrote on its Facebook page. “You can avoid attracting them to your yards and neighborhoods by not leaving food out and by securing your garbage.”

This is excellent advice that should be followed no matter where you live.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


Nancy Wrightington

ALL animals are God's creature. It is a shame the way humans treat them.

Mark Donner
Mark Donner7 days ago

Trap, treat them and release them. The solution is obvious except to idiot government crazies.

Jennifer H
Jennifer H8 days ago

I can't believe they wont treat them....

Evelyn M
Evelyn M8 days ago

The poor thing must be in some awful pain with terrible itching. It's unfortunate that it seems they are not going to try to treat the mange on these coyotes. Very sad.

Cruel J
Cruel Justice9 days ago

Mange is a HORRIBLE disease, that includes A LOT of suffering.

Na K
Na K11 days ago

Please help these animals. Thanks.

Nena MILLER12 days ago

They can be treated with baited food with three month product to give them relief...this is really sad ☹️

Arlene C
Arlene C12 days ago

Merci Laure

Marija K
Marija K13 days ago

There's something incredibly depressing about animals, sick or not, hanging around in (sub)urban areas.

Carl R
Carl R13 days ago