Illinois Department of Natural Resources

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Bob Bluett, 217-782-6384

HUNTERS AND TRAPPERS ARE CHAMPIONS OF WILDLIFE IN ILLINOIS

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. -- As hunters and trappers gear up for another set of seasons involving Illinois' abundant wildlife, it's a great opportunity to reflect on contributions that the state's 294,000 licensed hunters and 3,000 licensed trappers add to wildlife conservation.

"Illinois hunters and trappers often work behind the scenes to help conserve wildlife populations," says Bob Bluett, wildlife diversity biologist, Illinois Department of Natural Resources. "Our hunters and trappers care about wildlife and have a huge interest in maintaining their populations and habitats. They are some of the biggest champions of wildlife in Illinois."

Here are key ways that hunters and trappers contribute to Illinois wildlife:

Funding for wildlife conservation

Licenses and stamps
Hunters and trappers help pay for Illinois wildlife conservation through license fees and special taxes. This money helps conserve all Illinois wildlife, including species that aren't hunted or trapped. Hunters and trappers contribute more than $16 million every year for conservation efforts.

Illinois collects about $900,000 annually from the sale of Habitat Stamps to hunters and trappers for purchasing and improving wildlife habitat.

Federal Aid
Some funds are derived from federal excise taxes that hunters and trappers pay on firearms, ammunition and other hunting equipment. This goes into the "Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration" program, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Illinois has received more than $70 million in Federal Aid since it started in 1937. Most of Illinois' share is used to maintain and improve wildlife habitat. This benefits everything from butterflies to birds and mammals.

Contributions through hunting-related groups
Hunting organizations such as Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation and Quail Unlimited raise millions for habitat projects in Illinois and nationwide. Through their membership, hunters and trappers support wildlife conservation and protection of wildlife habitats. Notable successes include helping bring back wild turkey and river otter populations.

"The list goes on, but it all adds up to one thing: Hunters and trappers don't just pay their way - they lead the way when it comes to wildlife conservation," Bluett says.

Controlling animal damage and public health concerns
Hunters and trappers help biologists manage wildlife populations in settings where animals create property damage, cause habitat destruction or pose public health risks.

Wildlife overpopulation can lead to parasitism such as mange, as well as diseases such as rabies and distemper. Diseases and parasites such as rabies and mange can affect people and pets.

"Regulated hunting and trapping lessen threats to people and pets by reducing wildlife populations and exposure to diseases," Bluett notes. "They also help eliminate or prevent damage to crops, buildings, homes and other property."

Reintroducing wildlife species
Wildlife biologists sometimes work with trappers to capture rare or endangered species unharmed. These animals then are freed elsewhere to reestablish healthy wildlife populations.

Such is the case for river otters in Illinois. As part of an extensive reintroduction project in the 1990s, river otters were captured safely in Louisiana, where numbers are plentiful, and released in Illinois, where populations were scarce. Today, otters abound throughout the state.

Training hunters and trappers
Everyone born after January 1, 1980, must pass an Illinois DNR hunter safety and education course before they can purchase licenses to hunt. All first-time trappers under 18 years of age must complete a trapper safety and education course. Students learn about laws, safety, ethics and techniques.

About 1,000 hunters and trappers are certified instructors. Each year, they volunteer more than 11,000 hours for these programs.

Improving scientific knowledge
Nearly 2,000 hunters volunteer to record their time and types of wildlife they observe afield. This is a reliable way for biologists to monitor species and adjust hunting and trapping regulations to avoid negative impacts on wildlife.

Trappers also play a role in scientific projects, including helping biologists evaluate traps designed to reduce injuries to captured animals, monitor river otter populations, determine the status of bobcats in Illinois, look at causes of mortality for red foxes, and study risks of chemical contaminants to minks.

Feeding the homeless
Each year, hunters help to feed the homeless by donating more than 10,000 pounds of venison through the Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger program.

"Illinois DNR believes that with careful, responsible and humane stewardship, wildlife can be managed as valuable, renewable natural resources to benefit society and wildlife," says Bluett. "The contributions of hunters and trappers are key to successful wildlife conservation."

Visit the Fur Hunting and Trapping in Illinois website
Learn more by visiting the Illinois DNR's new website, "Fur Hunting and Trapping in Illinois," at dnr.state.il.us/orc/wildlife, or contact the Illinois DNR at 217-782-6384.

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