Illinois Department of Natural Resources
August 2020
August 3, 2020

Meet the Staff: Peter Schlichting, Deer Biologist

By Kathy Andrews Wright

Photos courtesy of Peter Schlichting.

The road to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) was a long and winding one for Peter Schlichting. Granted, it started in Illinois but along the way he studied primates in Madagascar and Nepal, worked in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone collaring wolves and raccoon dogs, and studied wild pigs across the United States. In the fall of 2019 Schlichting returned to Illinois, accepting the position as IDNR Deer Project Manager.

A biologist kneels by a blindfolded wolf laying on a stretcher on the ground. Trees are in the background, and snow is on the ground.

Born and raised in Springfield, Schlichting earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, then furthered his education at Stony Brook University, which took him to Madagascar and Nepal to complete a masters in anthropology. In earning his PhD in Wildlife Biology from Texas Tech he studied the genetics and spatial ecology of wild pigs. Following his doctoral studies, Schlichting worked on several U.S. Department of Agriculture funded wild pig projects and he had the opportunity to work on a wildlife project in Belarus.

After global adventures and opportunities to contribute to critical studies on a range of species, why return home?

“I reached a point in my life where I was interested in returning to a place I loved and be closer to my family,” Schlichting explained. “Wild pigs taught me the fun and pitfalls of working on an enigmatic, culturally important, and divisive species so the opportunity to work with white-tailed deer seemed like a good fit.”

A biologist squats down next to a wild  pig which is laying on the ground. Tall tan, brown grasses are in the background.

He also was interested in pursuing a position where his work would be applied and impactful.

“In research we provide information and make recommendations, but as the state’s deer biologist I can make decisions that directly impact the resource,” he continued. “My background and experience working with a variety of species, both in the United States and internationally, has exposed me to a lot of different management approaches that I can apply to management of deer in Illinois.”

Since joining the IDNR in the fall, Schlichting has enjoyed integrating into the department’s deer management program and interacting with Illinois hunters. His goal is to build on the solid management foundations existing in Illinois to prepare for new challenges we face in deer management.

“There are many challenges ahead including hunter recruitment and access, balancing robust deer populations with their impacts on the environment, deer-human conflict, and managing threats to the deer herd including Chronic Wasting Disease.”

Schlichting is passionate about white-tailed deer and deer management in Illinois. “The Illinois white-tailed deer herd is world-renowned, and it is an honor to be a steward of this resource.”

What is Schlichting looking forward to most now that he is back home?

“It has been years since I’ve been able to deer hunt in Illinois and with the move and new job I wasn’t able to get out last year,” he said. “I’ll be ready come October.”

Kathy Andrews Wright is retired from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources where she was editor of Outdoor Illinois magazine. She is currently the editor of Outdoor Illinois Wildlife Journal and Illinois Audubon magazine.