Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Forest Preserve Wildlife
Nature Bulletin No. 437-A   December 11, 1971
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

The Forest Preserve District now comprises about 62,512 acres of native landscape, mostly wooded, acquired and held as the statute prescribes: for the purpose of protecting the flora, fauna and scenic beauties in their natural state and condition as nearly as may be. It is a huge wildlife sanctuary wherein no weapon may be carried and no hunting, trapping or molestation of any mammal or bird is permitted.

Aside from fish management, the wildlife has been left alone to work out its own systems of checks and balances. There has been no attempt to remove surplus populations; no control of any predator other than wild cats and dogs. None is needed. Dead or hollow trees have been allowed to stand, or lie where they fall, because they furnish homes for many kinds of wildlife and go back into the soil to maintain the health of the woodland. There has been considerable reforestation of open tracts formerly farmed and, in some areas, planting of shrubs and vines which provide food for wildlife.

About a hundred water areas -- lakes, ponds and sloughs varying from a few acres to 325 acres in extent -- have been created or restored. Some of these furnish good fishing, They all furnish food or homes or both for many kinds of wildlife. During the migration seasons they serve as resting places for tens of thousands of wild ducks, geese and shorebirds because we are located on a major migration route in the great Mississippi Flyway.

Wildlife authorities of the U, S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, a few years ago, stated that our Forest Preserve District contains a greater abundance of more kinds of wildlife than most state parks and forests, and one of them wrote: "Here, within a county of 4,000,000 inhabitants, wilderness areas exist, and not at the expense of denying the public use of the land. This is due to control of the public within the areas by planning and management. " Cook County now has nearly six million people and the preserves have about 15 million visitors per year but his statement is still true.

If you lived in the preserves and tramped through them as we do, you would see an amazing amount of all kinds of wildlife or evidences of it. After a snowfall there may be tracks of raccoon and possum around the garbage can, or a fox track. A woodchuck raises her brood near our garden every year. Around the shores of ponds and sloughs dotted with muskrat lodges, we see the tracks of mink, raccoon, and weasel. Cardinals, bluejays, three kinds of woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, juncoes, sparrows, crows and pheasants come to our feeding places all winter. So do squirrels and rabbits.

Traveling along the highways, we see many dead animals killed by vehicles. For two years we kept a record of all we saw on certain routes. About half were rabbits, followed by squirrels, house cats, possums, skunks and dogs -- in that order -- with lesser numbers of other animals. The greatest traffic toll of wildlife is in the spring. The yearly toll of rabbits and squirrels appear to be about the same as the average kill by hunters in the rest of Illinois.

White-tailed deer are roaming the Deer Grove, Elk Grove and Palos preserves. In the Palos we have released beaver which were common here in early times. Several deer and beaver have been killed on the highways but we are not alarmed.

What makes the wildlife and park men wild? People.

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