On Saturday afternoon, November 11, at the Woodbine Bend Golf Course restaurant, more than 200 people gathered to learn about the return of wolves, cougars and black bears to the Midwest, including Northwestern Illinois, where all three species have been identified in recent years. JDCF’s co-sponsors for the event were the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Jo Daviess County Farm Bureau.
Speakers included Adrian Wydeven, wildlife biologist and Wisconsin wolf recovery expert; Michelle LaRue, executive director of the Cougar Network and University of Minnesota researcher; Doug Dufford, IDNR’s coordinator of large carnivore surveillance and response; Craig Bloomquist, US Department of Agriculture expert on managing conflicts with large carnivores in Illinois; and Jay Solomon, University of Illinois Extension’s environmental stewardship educator.
The speakers provided identification guidelines for these carnivores and discussed their current ranges and habitat needs. They were in consensus that breeding populations of these species in Northwestern Illinois, if they occur at all, are likely years or decades in the future. In the meantime, the IDNR, under Doug’s leadership, is creating a response plan for public and livestock encounters with the lone individuals which are expected to continue passing through or living here temporarily. And the University of Illinois Extension website, Living with Wildlife, will continue to provide updated IDNR contact information for those wishing to report sightings, at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife .