Wilmette, News

Report of coyote biting 5-year-old shuts down Elmwood Dunes Preserve in Wilmette

Incident may be first coyote attack on human in Chicagoland since 2020

Wilmette officials closed access to Elmwood Dunes Preserve after a coyote reportedly bit a child last week near the area.

Wilmette Village Manager Mike Braiman said the incident occurred around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, when a grandmother and her two grandchildren were confronted by what the woman described as a coyote acting aggressively on the beachfront in Wilmette.

According to the report, the family was having a picnic on the beach when the animal first approached them. When they attempted to move from the scene, the animal reportedly followed them up the path in Elmwood Dunes Preserve, a small natural landscape with access to the beach. The animal bit the 5-year-old child on the back of the shoulder, according to Braiman.

A zoomed-in photo allegedly showing the coyote that bit a 5-year-old on March 7 in Wilmette.

Braiman said he could not provide details on the child’s injury, but confirmed the 5-year-old received medical treatment for a non-life-threatening injury.

The Village, in conjunction with the Wilmette Park District, “immediately closed the dunes and installed signage to warn residents,” he said.

Officials then brought in a wildlife expert to search and review the area. According to Braiman, the expert did not locate a coyote den in the preserve or any other public property along the lakefront.

The Village of Wilmette has received no other recent reports of an aggressive coyote, Braiman said, adding that officials do not believe the coyote is in the immediate area. The preserve reportedly will reopen on Friday, March 15.

“We feel comfortable in our consultation with the wildlife expert that we can reopen and continue to use signage to urge caution,” he said.

What does it mean and how to limit risk

Coyote attacks on humans are rare. A study from two California researchers, the findings of which the researchers concede are likely incomplete, counted 367 coyote attacks on humans in the United States and Canada between 1977-2016 — an average of nine per year. A large chunk of the attacks (165) occurred in California, the study shows.

The last Chicagoland coyote attack on a human may have been in 2020 when coyotes reportedly attacked two people on Chicago’s North Side in separate incidents.

The Urban Coyote Research Project, a local collaboration studying coyotes impact in Cook County, also reports that attacks on humans are rare and have not reported any coyote attacks since 2020. A study from the project looked at 142 coyote attacks on humans rom 1960-2009, and researchers could not find any reports of such attacks in Illinois.

The project says that reported coyote attacks on pets, however, have increased in metropolitan areas in the Midwest and eastern United States over the years.

The Urban Coyote Research Project has six tips to avoid conflicts with coyotes:

1. Do not feed coyotes.

2. Do not let pets run loose.

3. Do not run from a coyote.

4. Repellents or fencing may help.

5. Do not create conflict where it does not exist.

6. Report aggressive, fearless coyotes immediately.

If Wilmette residents have concern about an aggressive wild animal, they can call local police at (847) 256-1200 for a nonemergency and 911 in an emergency.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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