Photo by Dermot Connolly
A family enjoys watching the birds in the MWRD's newly reopened Waterfall Park in Worth, at 117th and Harlem Avenue. Many new signs caution against feeding wildlife, a common activity which is believed to be harmful to the birds and other animals as well as draw dogs and coyotes to the area.
Worth’s popular Harry “Bus” Yourell Waterfall Park at 117th and Harlem Avenue reopened last week, following a two-month closure to search for an aggressive dog.
During a visit to the park this week, the ducks, Canada geese and other birds usually found there seemed to be as plentiful as ever, so the absence of human activity for a couple of months didn’t hurt their population anyway. The only change seemed to be new large red “stop signs” urging people not to feed the wildlife.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District closed the park temporarily on May 24, following several reports that began in late April of a dog or coyote acting aggressively toward people on the grounds of what is technically a sidestream elevated pool aeration (SEPA) station.
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. But Mayor Mary Werner said the MWRD decided to temporarily close the site to the public following three more reports of people being attacked or threatened by a similar animal. Cook County Animal Control was called in to set humane traps for the problem animal.
Although coyotes are known to live in the wooded areas surrounding the park, officials determined from biological evidence left behind that the culprit was most likely a mixed-breed dog, like a shepherd-mix that may have looked like a coyote. Because so many coyotes do live in the surrounding area, trapping them would not be feasible, and experts point out that they typically shy away from humans rather than attack them.
Werner said this week that she was told by MWRD officials that although no animal was trapped, there has also been no evidence of “animal activity” in the park for two weeks. Therefore, it was deemed safe to reopen.
The mayor had said previously that when the park did reopen, the prohibition against feeding wildlife on the grounds would be stressed, which explains the new signs erected by the MWRD.
“Feeding waterfowl is very detrimental to their health. God did not intend for them to eat carbs like bread and cereal. This is equivalent to people feeding their children a diet of candy 365 days a year,” said Werner, citing information provided by the Humane Society of the United States.
“Also feeding them in mass brings them on shore where they are now eating in the same area where they defecate and it spreads diseases,” she added.
The mayor noted that practice of feeding the birds also might be what drew the problem dog there in the first place because the food left on the ground attracts other animals as well.
In addition to walking, jogging, and riding bikes on the paths around the waterfalls, feeding the birds is one of the other popular activities that people engage in at the park, so it will likely be a hard habit to break.
One Palos Hills resident who was there with his family on Monday said they missed going there when it was closed. “The kids like to see the wildlife,” he said. He admitted they had brought breadcrumbs for the birds, but put it away when they saw the signs.
But elsewhere in the park, another family was seen scattering crumbs for the birds right beside one of the new signs warning against it.
More information about living in close proximity to coyotes may be obtained at online at urbancoyoteresearch.com. For assistance with problem animals, residents are advised to call Cook County Animal Control at (708) 974-6140.