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Archive - December 2015

There are about 60 species of wild mammals in Illinois. What is a mammal? It's an animal with four limbs (legs/arms). It has hair or fur. It is warm-blooded (its body temperature is kept at the same level instead of being controlled by the environment). Most female mammals bear young that develop in a special organ, the uterus. Two species of mammals lay eggs, but they do not live in Illinois. After birth, mammal young are fed with milk produced by the female's mammary glands. Mammals have a large and complex brain.

Wild mammals in Illinois include the marsupials (Virginia opossum), insectivores (shrews and moles), bats, rabbits, rodents, carnivores and ungulates (white-tailed deer).

"Furbearer" is a term used mainly by wildlife biologists to describe mammals that are hunted or trapped, usually for their valuable fur. There are 14 species of furbearers in Illinois. To some people, trapping, hunting and the use of fur are controversial issues. Here are some facts to help you understand hunting and trapping of furbearers.

- Hunting and trapping are highly regulated. More than 75 state, federal and international laws apply to the hunting and trapping of furbearers in Illinois. These laws provide standards for animal welfare, require licenses and training and set limits on hunting and trapping so that populations remain healthy.

- Furbearers are common species. As of 2016, it will be legal to hunt or trap all 14 species of furbearers in Illinois. Thanks to conservation efforts, some species once considered rare in Illinois are now thriving. Examples include the American beaver, North American river otter and bobcat. Most of the species that are hunted or trapped in Illinois are capable of giving birth to and raising many young in a short period of time. Even with diseases, predators and other factors causing death, many individuals remain that can be harvested by hunting or trapping.

- Society benefits from responsible harvest of furbearers. Regulated hunting and trapping help to keep furbearer populations at acceptable levels, reduce property damage caused by furbearers, raise funds for the conservation of wildlife, and provide a wide range of materials and products for human use, including but not limited to, fur garments, soap, pet foods, livestock, feed, paint, tires, textiles and construction materials.

Several publications from the IDNR can provide you with more information about hunting and trapping. You will find all of them through the publications order form.

Fur Hunting and Trapping brochure
Fur Hunting and Trapping DVD
Illinois Furbearers poster
Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations book

There are 14 species of furbearers in Illinois. They represent several types of mammals.

Species Gallery

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
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)​​

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