Illinois Wildlife and Nature

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picture of the Chicago Navy Pier
Welcome to Illinois wildlife. A typical dichotomy for Illinois nature might pit the urban environment of Chicago versus the agriculture environment of an otherwise farm state.

That’s partly true and partly imcomplete because it omits the fact that water characterized Illinois wildlife and nature as much as land. Chicago, for example, has Lake Michigan as a boundary. The Mississippi River bounds the western part of the state.

The presence of both land and water contribute to the state’s biodiversity. While much of the land is now used in agriculture, the state

Illinois’ natural divisions include the Wisconsin Driftless,
Rock River Hill Country, Grand Prairie, Northeastern Morainal, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers Sand Areas, Wabash Border, Southern Till Plain, Shawnee Hills, Coastal Plain, Lower Mississippi River Bottomlands, Ozark, Middle Mississippi Border, Western Forest-Prairie and Upper Mississippi and Illinois River Bottomlands. The largest natural division in Illinois is the Grand Prairie Division. Each of these areas contains unique habitats and species.

One of the primary ways the people of Illinois protect their wildlife is by protecting the lands they live on. According to The Illinois Nature Preserve System…

A tapestry of nature’s treasures is protected in Illinois by a nationally acclaimed program called the Illinois Nature Preserves System. From the Cache River basin’s cypress swamps in southern Illinois to the Illinois Beach dunes along Lake Michigan, many of our state’s most rare, natural areas are protected as nature preserves.

The program divides the state into nine separate regions and then seeks to find and save small areas of land in perpetuity. A program that focuses on land will naturally help with endangered species management, especially the 251 Endangered and 73 Threatened plants on the Illionis endangered species list.

Illinois Animals


picture of white-tailed deer the state mammal of Illinois, illinois wildlife
A handful of larger mammals, including some carnivores constitute one subset of the Illinois wildlife population, including the White-tailed Deer (pictured), designated at the official Illinois mammal.

The history of Illinois wildlife follows the history of the state’s agriculture development. Familiar large carnivores such as black bears, wolves and mountain lions once walked state lands. With the exception of the sports teams with enduring nicknames, by the end of the nineteenth century their populations were extirpated within state boundaries.

picture of a coyote, Illinois wildlife
Coyotes live in most corners of Illinois, including Chicago and other urban areas. Because they are nocturnal, their presence in cities often goes unnoticed. Their diet consists mostly of local rodents and rabbits. Human concerns about their presence often revolve around the safety of pets out during the night.

Red Foxes and Gray Foxes are the other members of the wild dog family that live in the state. Red Foxes are the more common species.

picture of a bobcat, Illinois wildlife
In the wild cat family, bobcat populations in Illinois have made a comeback in the past few decades.

Most of the population lives in the southern part of the state in and around the Shawnee National Forest.

picture of a Virginia Opossum, illinois wildlife
Rodents and other mammals such as raccoons and opossum are the most common carnivores and mammals that Illinois residents will see in their backyard. Their presence is not much a cause of concern.

Opossums (pictured) and raccoons, for example, raid garbage cans and often shelter in and near residential neighborhoods. They often shy away from human engagement. Raccoons are known to prey on both cat and dog pets.

As the site grows, more information covering Illinois will be added. Until then, press any of the following buttons to learn more about Illinois nature.