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January summit to focus on life with wildlife

A coyote roams ground cemetery Naperville last July. Coyote sightings are rise throughout Chicago area. | Sun-Times Medifile

A coyote roams the ground of a cemetery in Naperville last July. Coyote sightings are on the rise throughout the Chicago area. | Sun-Times Media file

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If you go

What: “Living with Wildlife in the Suburbs,” the 10th annual DuPage Environmental Summit

When: 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 9

Where: Krasa Center at Benedictine University, 5700 College Road, Lisle

Why: to share information about attracting and discouraging various varieties of wildlife

How much: admission is free; for-profit vendors pay a $75 fee, but nonprofits can participate at no cost

What else: registration is not required, but appreciated; go to

Updated: January 17, 2013 6:19AM

The cohabitation of suburbanites with non-domesticated furry, four-legged critters will take up the focus of the 10th annual DuPage Environmental Summit, set for Jan. 9 at Benedictine University in Lisle.

Experts will address the shared local habitat that in recent years has seen growing deer, beaver and coyote populations — along with the occasional wolf, cougar and possibly bobcat.

“They’re looking for food, they’re looking for a place to live,” said Brook McDonald, president and CEO of the Conservation Foundation in Naperville, at this week’s meeting of the DuPage County Environmental Commission. “It’s like when we were young — we just kind of hung out, wandering around until we settled down.”

The foundation and the commission are cosponsors of the event, which will take aim at the potential harmonies and conflicts between humans and wildlife. Other sponsors include the county, the Companions’ Fund of The DuPage Community Foundation, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Benedictine University and School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education (SCARCE).

“I think you’re going to have a huge turnout,” said Pat Armstrong, a commission member who lives in Naperville. “There’s a lot of interest in this.”

In addition to the more oft-spotted deer and coyote, McDonald said there have been confirmed sightings of wolves in Kane County and cougars in Kendall County.

“It’s sort of fun and scary at the same time,” he said.

A mountain lion was tracked last year making its way through areas of Chicago and the northern suburbs. Other surprising forms of wildlife have turned up in a variety of unexpected places in recent years.

McDonald said he was chatting several years ago with a neighbor near Sheridan, where he and his family own some property, and the woman swore she’d seen a bobcat in the area. He resisted the urge to dismiss verbally the possibility, out of courtesy, and perhaps that was a good choice.

“You know, now I think she was right,” he said. “And I was the crazy one.”

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