Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Chief’s Letter

Ann Holtrop, Chief, Division of Natural Heritage

I am pleased to announce the expansion of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) ezine, which comes with an ever-so-slight name change to OutdoorIllinois Journal (OIJ) to reflect a richer view of Illinois’ natural resources. OIJ continues to feature timely, seasonally based stories about the Prairie State’s wildlife resources, with an expansion of content to include a broader range of subjects—including endangered and threatened species and Illinois’ unique, high-quality habitats and the people working to preserve, protect and manage these resources.

The November 1, 2020 edition of OIJ comes as Illinois Department of Natural Resources staff continue to be creative in finding ways to manage Illinois’ natural resources under COVID-19 protocols. Like their counterparts in businesses and other agencies and organizations, staff are committed to doing everything that can be safely undertaken during this challenging period. Our best to you and your families as you also adapt to a new normal, and may you stay safe and healthy.

Kicking off this edition of OIJ are several articles introducing the Division of Natural Heritage. The introductory article provides an overview of our mission and over time we’ll delve into these topics in greater detail. In this edition we expand our discussion of a program that reaches out to touch the lives of school children, state park visitors, citizen scientists and researchers—the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund. In the article Facilitated Migration to Save Endangered Piping Plovers you will learn how a team of biologists, land managers and volunteers quickly assembled this summer to protect one of Illinois’ rarest wildlife species.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the State Wildlife Grant Program—which spurred the development of the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan—we’ve prepared an article showcasing a sampling of the 129 projects that have been undertaken to benefit at-risk species (king rail, barn owl, redspotted sunfish, bumblebees, dragonflies, cicadas and more) and their habitats.

Whether as a hunter, birdwatcher or nature enthusiast you’ll appreciate the tips on finding wildlife in nature that are provided in the article Seeing Wildlife Through Soft Eyes. Perhaps after reading the articles on ospreys, mink, coyotes and gray foxes you can head outdoors and use the soft eye technique to see what species you can locate.

This edition contains several articles pertaining to land management practices and programs, including an update on $5 million of projects taking place within the Illinois River Valley that Ducks Unlimited is coordinating. A second piece describes how some landowners are planting cover crops to benefit the soil but also to provide critical wintering habitat for wildlife, as well as habitat where migratory birds can rest and refuel. A third story identifies how landowners are providing quality pollinator habitat when managing native moist soil plants in seasonal wetlands established for duck hunting.

Research under way at the Novakofski & Mateus Chronic Wasting Disease Lab at the University of Illinois is showing that genetics may be key in the management of this always fatal disease. At Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, researchers are examining how small mammals respond to various techniques employed in the restoration and management of grassland habitats. We also have a story that reviews the research efforts designed to increase our understanding of bobcat population dynamics, survival, occupancy and distribution across Illinois before and after the implementation of a regulated season.

During the annual hunting and trapping season we share with you a timely reminder to think, plan and practice safety to minimize avoidable accidents. One author asked trappers how they get ready for the annual trapping season and found that they spend the entire year preparing for the season. Are deer refuges needed in Illinois? Check out an article in this edition to learn what researchers found about deer populations and refuge protection.

In the Meet the Staff series, two IDNR District Wildlife Biologists, Megan Dassow and Kaleb Wood, recount how experiences in their youth resulted in pursing their rewarding career paths. Nicky Strahl, another District Wildlife Biologist, provides an enlightening explanation of her unique perspective as a member of the IDNR Chronic Wasting Disease Management Team.

Among the other interesting features inside this edition of OutdoorIllinois Journal is a timely piece on the species of mice (and rats) that may be making appearances inside homes as winter weather starts to set and a reminder that immersing yourself in nature throughout the year will keep your observation skills sharp and build your knowledge of the seasonal habitat preferences of wildlife.

OutdoorIllinois Journal is a collaborative effort led by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Divisions of Wildlife Resources and Natural Heritage, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration, and the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. Funding for OutdoorIllinois Journal was made available through Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Project W-147-T and the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund.

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