The Oct. 4 property-standards hearing for violations at the site of a former greenhouse is about morae than the overgrowth of weeds. It is about the coyotes harbored by the weeds and the dilapidated greenhouses at the former Hoffmann nursery that spans the Evanston-Wilmette boundary along Gross Point (in Evanston) and Ridge (in Wilmette) Road. The address of the three-acre property is 204 Ridge Road in the Village of Wilmette, but the greenhouses lie in the City of Evanston. The Village has handed to the City the task of getting the owners, James and Shirley Hoffmann-Higgins, to clean up the property.
Nature of the Problem
Residents of the area around the property have been bothered, menaced, even, by coyotes living there. Larger than foxes and smaller than wolves, coyotes weigh 30-35 pounds and have the distinctively canine snout.
A June 29 email from Ted Blumenthal, Wilmette’s Code Enforcement Officer, to Angelique Schnur, a Senior Property Maintenance Inspector with the City of Evanston, shows Wilmette’s assessment of the problem: There is a serious concern regarding coyotes, and residents from both of our communities have become fearful of them. Apparently they go out at night as a pack and hunt animals and neighborhood pets. These concerned citizens have attempted to speak to the Hoffmann-Higginses about the issue, but they do not want to do anything at all about it.”
Mr. Blumenthal’s succinct appraisal encapsulates the fear and anger expressed by many residents of northwest Evanston, who have seen the coyotes, both in packs and individually. Residents have reported that cats have been killed and small dogs attacked, presumably by the coyotes.
In addition to the weeds, native grasses and decaying structures that the coyotes call home, nearby residents say the property owners appear to be glad to have the coyotes there. In turn, neighbors are concerned that the coyotes are losing their fear of humans.
Tom Suffredin, Alderman of Evanston’s Sixth Ward – home to the “violating” third of the Hoffmann-Higgins property – told the RoundTable he had contacted the police and the animal warden to see what could be done about these marauders.
The answer was “Not much.”
Coyotes are wild animals, and this is their original turf.
The best bet was to bring the Hoffman-Higgins brother and sister to an administrative adjudication hearing on a property- standards violation – over-grown weeds.
Nature of the Coyote
Nearly two years ago, Nov. 3, 2016, Meg Evans Smith’s story “Coyotes” Phantoms of the Urban Landscape” appeared in the RoundTable. The full story is online at evanstonroundtable.com.
In her coyote story, Ms. Smith wrote, “In the 1970s, coyotes repopulated Illinois and the Great Lakes Basin on their own, settling in both rural and developed urban areas.”
An estimated 2,000 coyotes inhabit Cook County. Ms. Smith quoted Chris Anchor, Senior Wildlife Biologist for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County saying, “There is nowhere you can live in the Chicago area and not have coyotes in your neighborhood.”
In response to neighborhood concerns during the summer, Animal Warden David Rose wrote, “[T]he City of Evanston has always had coyotes roaming and living throughout the City. The coyotes travel and live in Calvary Cemetery, on the lakefront, the golf course, near the El tracks, in the canal area and in parks I don’t want to leave out Cook County’s Perkins Woods or the Presbyterian Homes.”
About the eating habits of coyotes Ms. Evans wrote that Mr. Anchor “describes coyotes as ‘incredible opportunists’ that will adapt their diets to whatever is available, whether it is roadkill, mice, meadow voles, or other small rodents, Canada goose eggs, a seasonal abundance of fruits such as apples or grapes, or even a surplus of periodic cicadas.”
Coyotes have also been known to attack small pets, and residents near the Hoffmann-Higgins property say seven cats were “lost” this summer.
Ms. Smith’s RoundTable story also quoted Mr. Anchor as saying, “‘It’s very important that people not feed coyotes.’ He added that the majority of attacks have occurred in areas where people were actively feeding coyotes. Often feeding happens unintentionally: When people leave food outside for their cat or dog, or have multiple bird feeders, it can attract other animals including coyotes. As a result, explains Mr. Anchor, unrelated groups of coyotes come together and they become more competitive for food. Coyotes may then start viewing pets and children as a potential food source. He reiterates that only a small percentage of the coyote population ever behaves aggressively or uncomfortably around humans.”
The Forest Preserve District of Cook County advises anyone approached by a coyote to yell, raise one’s hands to look taller, throw things at the coyote or wave a stick in the air.
The hearing was scheduled to take place after the RoundTable went to press. Whether clearing the weeds from the property and dismantling the greenhouses of the old Hoffmann nursery will make the coyotes feel unwelcome enough to relocate remains to be seen.