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Wild About Illinois Furbearers!

Few dictionaries define “furbearer.” This term is used mostly by professional wildlife biologists. It refers to species of mammals which are traditionally hunted or trapped — usually for their valuable furs. In Illinois, 14 species are classified as furbearers. All 14 may be harvested legally during certain times of the year.

More than 75 state, federal and international laws apply to the hunting and trapping of furbearers in Illinois. Such laws set standards for animal welfare and place limits on hunting and trapping so that animals are not endangered by these activities.

IDNR supports regulated hunting and trapping because these activities help to keep furbearer populations at acceptable levels, reduce property damage caused by furbearers, raise funds for the conservation of all wildlife and obtain a wide range of materials and products for human use.

Species Gallery

Kingdom: Animalia - Animals are multicellular organisms that rely on other organisms for nourishment. There cells do not have cell walls. Most animals are capable of movement at least in some portion of their life cycle. Reproduction is generally sexual, but in some animals asexual reproduction may be utilized at certain times.
Phylum: Chordata - The Phylum Chordata contains the vertebrate animals. Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes are included in this phylum. These animals have a notochord at some point in their development. They have a tubular nerve cord along the back. Gill slits and a tail are present at some point in their life cycle. They have an internal skeleton.
Class: Mammalia (Mammals) - Mammals are warm-blooded. Most mammals have young born after developing inside the mother's body in a special organ called a uterus. After birth, the young are fed with milk produced in the female’s mammary glands. A mammal has a large and complex brain.
Order: Didelphimorphia (Opossums) - The opossum bears young that are not fully developed. After birth these tiny opossums crawl into a pouch on the female’s body to complete their development.
Family: Didelphidae (American Opossums and Opossums) - The young are born immature and develop within the mother's pouch on her belly. Each didelphid has 50 teeth. The toe on the inside of each back foot is opposable (able to grasp objects and aid in climbing) and has no claw. The tail is prehensile and has scales.
     Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana)

Order: Rodentia (Rodents) - Rodents are small- to medium-sized mammals. They have incisors that grow continually throughout their life and must be worn down by gnawing on hard materials. Rodents have a large gap between their incisors and the rest of their teeth. This order contains the largest group of mammals in Illinois.
Family: Castoridae (Beavers) - The beaver is a large rodent. It is well-adapted for its aquatic lifestyle. The ears and nose have valves that close while under water. The tail is enlarged and flattened. The back feet are webbed. The lips shut behind the incisors. Anal scent glands are used to mark territorial boundaries.
     American beaver (Castor canadensis)

Family: Cricetidae (New World Rats and Mice, Voles, Hamsters and Relatives) - Cricetidae is one of the largest families of mammals, and there is much diversity in its members, so it is difficult to make a general description. Most of them are small with an elongated body. The fur is gray or brown with lighter or white hair on the belly and chin. The tail is long, and the eyes are large. The ears are easily seen. Whiskers are present.
     muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)

Order: Carnivora (Carnivores) - These mammals feed primarily on prey that they capture. They are large- to medium-sized mammals with claws on their feet.
Family: Canidae (Coyotes, Dogs, Foxes, Jackals and Wolves) - Coyotes, wolves and foxes have elongated legs. They have five toes on each front foot and four toes on each back foot. Their ears stand up straight. The snout is long and narrow. They communicate by barking or howling.
     coyote (Canis latrans)
     red fox (Vulpes vulpes)
     gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

Family: Procyonidae (Coatis, Raccoons and Relatives) - The raccoon has a long tail with alternating color bands. There are five elongated toes on each of the front and back feet.
     raccoon (Procyon lotor)

Family: Mustelidae (Badgers, Otters, Weasels and Relatives) - Weasels, minks, badgers and otters are a varied group. Many of them have a long, slender body with short legs. The ears are small and rounded, and the snout is short. Scent glands are present at the base of the tail.
     least weasel (Mustela nivalis)
     long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata)
     American mink (Mustela vison)
     American badger (Taxidea taxus)
     North American river otter (Lontra canadensis)

Family: Mephitidae (Skunks and Stink Badgers) - Skunks have a black and white color pattern and well-developed anal scent glands. The body is broad, and the snout is long. The tail is furred. They are nocturnal and eat a variety of foods.
     striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

​Family: Felidae (Cats) - A cat has a short face and small ears. It has five toes on each of the front feet and four toes on each of the back feet. The claws are rectangular and retractable. The teeth are adapted for cutting.
     bobcat (Lynx rufus)​​

Educational Resources


aquatic (adj.) living or growing in or on the water

canid (n.) a member of the dog family

extirpate (tr. v.) to cause a species to become extinct because of human activities

fencerow (n.) one or more rows of trees or shrubs that mark the edge of a field or a boundary between landowners’ properties

habitat (n.) the type of natural environment in which an animal lives

hibernate (v.) to enter a deep “sleep” in which the heart beat, breathing rate and other bodily functions slow down to conserve energy

home range (n.) the area where an animal spends most of its time

logjam (n.) floating logs and branches that have drifted together into a tight pile

mammal (n.) an animal which is warm-blooded, has hair and feeds its newborn young with milk produced by the mother

musk (n.) strong-smelling, oily substance produced by specialized glands

prey (n.) an animal which is eaten by other animals; (vb.) to capture or devour an animal

oxbow (n.) an old bend in a river that was cut off from the main channel when deposits of mud, sand and silt settled at the narrowest point

riffle (n.) a shallow, fast-moving stretch in a creek or river

rendering (v.) a “cooking” process in which raw fats and tissues from animals are separated into purer components like meat by-products, oils and other useful materials

silt (n.) sediment; soil particles which settle on the bottom of a stream, lake or other body of water, often to the detriment of the ecosystem

soil erosion (n.) movement of soil particles, usually by water or wind

species (n.) a particular kind of plant or animal

tile (n.) plastic, metal or clay pipe which is buried underground to collect and carry water from the soil. The outlet usually drains into creeks or other waterways

windbreak (n.) a narrow strip of trees, shrubs or grass planted along the border of a field to reduce the speed and erosive action of wind

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