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  Illinois Nature and Wildlife Viewing Guide   

Plan Ahead. Research the site you plan to visit for wildlife and wildflower checklists, brochures, maps or trail guides and habitat information. Contact the site before your visit to learn which hunting seasons may be open and take appropriate precautions such as wearing blaze orange clothing during the hunting season.

Get Permission First. While all sites described in this guide are open to the general public, many wildlife and wildflower havens are privately owned. Respect the rights of these landowners. Ask for their permission before entering their property to view wildlife or wildflowers.

Know Your Seasons. You can view wildlife year round in Illinois but often spring and early fall offer the best opportunities for spotting a wider variety of birds and animals.

When to Watch. Head out early in the morning to view birds actively feeding and nocturnal mammals going to their day-time retreats. Late evening brings bats, flying squirrels, owls, coyotes, foxes, whip-poor-wills and nighthawks. Afternoon tends to be a quiet period but look for turtles, lizards and butterflies.

How to Watch. Sit quietly in one place for extended periods. Observe an animal from a distance. Always keep the wind in your face so the animal canít smell you. Hide from view in an observation blind, viewing tower or simply stand behind a tree or bush. Leave pets behind as they will frighten away wildlife. If you must talk, whisper. When on an outing with children, allow for periods of absolute silence.

Dress Properly. Wear soft, earth toned cotton or wool. Avoid brightly colored or noisy clothes like nylon windbreakers. Wear long sleeves and tuck socks into long pants to avoid poison ivy, ticks and chiggers.

Utilize Viewing Aids. Donít leave without an Illinois State Highway Road Map or the Illinois Atlas and Gazetteer by DeLorme Mapping. Binoculars are also a valuable viewing aid.

    Binoculars come in various sizes. The most common are 7X35, 8X40 and 10X50. The first number means how enlarged an object is compared to viewing it with the unaided eye. The higher the number the more amplified the hand movements which makes sighting objects more difficult. For example, it is easier to find a warbler high in a tree using 7X35 pair of binoculars than a 10X40. However, the image of the warbler through the 7X35 will appear smaller.

    The second number in the couplet refers to the size of the objective lens, the larger of the two lenses which point at the object of interest. The diameter of the objective lens is measured in millimeters. Larger lenses let in more light. The larger the second number, the easier it will be to view wildlife during evening hours or in deep shade.

    Most animals cannot detect red light. For night viewing, put red cellophane over a flashlight and cast the beam about in search of eye shine. Deer eyes shine bright green, while raccoon eyes shine yellow-gold. Both red and gray foxes have green or gold eye shine. Cottontail rabbits, opossums and bullfrogs have pink eye shine. The eyes of your resident skunk do not reflect light so watch out!

Respect Wildlife. Never chase, flush or harass wildlife. This may cause them to use up valuable energy needed to breed or for survival. Avoid nesting sites and active dens and respect resting periods of wildlife. Always leave an Illinois nature area in better condition than you found it in.

No Free Hand-Outs, Please. White bread, popcorn, crackers and cheese puffs do not supply a nutritious diet for wildlife. Feeding wild animals can be harmful to them as they develop a dependence on hand-outs, lose their fear of people or become aggressive to people and have to be removed by site managers.

Leave Wild Things Wild. Wild baby animals may look cute but they donít make good pets. While baby animals may appear to be abandoned, their parents are usually watching quietly and cautiously from nearby cover. When you leave, the parents often return. Avoid disturbing a mother with her young. Donít approach an animal who appears sick. Instead, report it to the site manager.

Be Aware. Four snakes in Illinois are venomous. The cottonmouth is found in southern Illinois swamps. The copperhead lives in rocky forested areas in the southern part of the state. The massasauga is a small type of rattlesnake that lives in open woodlands along prairie rivers. The largest of the four is the timber rattlesnake found in wooded river bluffs along the Mississippi River and in southern Illinois. Nonpoisonous snakes have round pupils in their eyes while all the venomous snakes in Illinois have vertical slits for pupils. This feature may be obscured with duckweed, mud or forest litter.

Interact with Others. Respect the rights of other outdoor users. Avoid spoiling their outdoor experience by keeping your voice low, not approaching featured wildlife too closely and not slamming your car door or making loud noises or sudden movements when you arrive on site.

Participate in guided hikes and educational programs offered at many sites. Talk with other visitors or staff naturalists about what you are looking for and share your discoveries with other.

Keep a Journal. Note the date, time, weather conditions and specific habitat in which you found an animal or plant. Include observations about an animalís behavior and physical characteristics or about the blossoming state of a wildflower. Review your journal at a later date to plan outings for the coming year.

Be Persistent. Donít be disappointed if you canít find the plant or animal you were hoping to see. Appreciate the many other natural events, plants and animals you did see. Learn to recognize the signs which many wild animals leave behind such as a twig nipped cleanly off at an angle, a small sapling with bark rubbed off, an empty nut shell with tiny tooth marks, a shed antler and many others which can give you clues to the types of wildlife that were here before you arrived.

TEST YOUR NATURE IQ WITH A VIEWING GUIDE QUIZ!

What is a good way to view the large cecropia and luna moths?
A) With a microscope by a lake
B) With a flashlight covered in red cellophane as you walk on trails at night
C) With a small campfire in front of a cave
D) None of the above

What animal signs can be easily spotted during the winter months?
A) Fox tracks criss cross open fields...their feet in a single line
B) Raccoonsí forefeet leave tracks that look like little hands
C) Large bird tracks might indicate the presence of wild turkey
D) All of the above

One of the best places to view bald eagles in Illinois is at .... ?
A) Southern Illinois swamps during the summer as they search for food
B) Any prairie area when they hunt for mice and small game
C) The Mississippi River during the winter as they hunt for fish below the dams
D) Forest areas where they are most likely to nest

Fire played an important ecological role in maintaining the prairie years ago by ... ?
A) Keeping invading hardwood forests and brush in check
B) Removing excess dead plant material
C) Scaring off wildlife that damaged plants
D) All but C

Moraines are ...
A) Small natural lakes such as the Chain OíLakes formed by glaciers
B) Glaciers that bury entire river valleys
C) Rich areas of farmland from when glaciers left behind deep deposits of soil
D) Rocks, boulders and debris that formed long curving hills where glaciers ended

An Illinois E-Plate is ...
A) A new piece of china with a cardinal portrayed on it
B) A tectonic plate that shifted causing the flatness of Illinoisí landscape
C) An environmental license plate that benefits Illinois wildlife
D) None of the above

How can people attract wildlife to their backyard?
A) Landscaping with native trees and shrubs
B) Building rock gardens that shelter chipmunks and pest-eating toads
C) Planting native woodland and prairie wildflowers to attract butterflies, moths, hummingbirds etc
D) Adding birdhouses, feeders and baths to bring a variety of birds
E) All of the above

Illinois Nature Preserves cover more than 30,000 acres. How many preserves are there?
A) 23
B) 178
C) 67
D) 225

Which of the following rivers does not surround Illinois?
A) Mississippi
B) Wabash
C) Missouri
D) Ohio

The state fish is the ... ?
A) bass
B) bluegill
C) white crappie
D) trout

At night, you can often hear the yipping and howling of ... ?
A) Gray foxes
B) Cottontail rabbits
C) Coyotes
D) All of the above

In Illinois, how many plant and animal species are endangered or threatened?
A) 35
B) 1,320
C) 82
D) 500

The peregrine falcon is an endangered species due to .... ?
A) DDT poisons devastating the population
B) Predators
C) Litter
D) None of the above

Which of these is a distinguishing feature of the endangered western hognose snake?
A) Black stripes like a zebra
B) Beady eyes like a weasel
C) Upturned snout like a pigís nose
D) Camoflaged like a toad

If you keep your eyes turned upward you might see ... ?
A) Migrating broad-winged and red-tailed hawks in the fall
B) Bald eagles and osprey near the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers
C) Long skeins of Canada geese during March, April, October, November
D) All of the above

The Illinois Wildlife and Nature Viewing Guide can be used for ... ?
A) Details about different Illinois species of plants and animals
B) A companion for hiking and exploring parks and natural areas
C) Basic information about Illinois habitats
D) All of the above

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