Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Where can I learn about creating or improving wildlife habitat on my property?

There are many great resources that can help you add wildlife habitat. These resources can get you started:  IDNR Habitat Helpers page and the CICADA website

In most cases it is illegal to keep wildlife as a pet in Illinois. This is because most wildlife in Illinois are protected by the Wildlife Code, and they cannot be kept in captivity without a permit. Wildlife rehabilitators licensed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are allowed to keep wildlife in captivity, with the goal of rehabilitation and release. If you have found an injured or orphaned animal, contact a licenced wildlife rehabilitator. Click HERE if you would like to contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources about permit information.

Always monitor small animals under 20 pounds when they are outside. Keep cats and dogs confined to a fenced yard or run. Fences should be six to eight feet above the soil surface to keep coyotes out. Keep small animals, like rabbits, in an enclosure with a top if left unattended. For pets that kept outside, always provide a sturdy shelter that they can use to escape a predator.

Most wildlife that are removed are euthanized if they are not released back onto the property where they were trapped. By Illinois law, striped skunks must be euthanized. Animals may be relocated to another property with the permission of the owner of the property where the animal will be released. They may not be released in parks, natural areas, nature parks or preserves.

Relocating an animal may seem like the right thing to do, but when an animal is relocated there is more at stake than the welfare of that particular individual. There are several reasons why it it’s better not to relocate. The first being that if the animal is relocated to another urban area, then someone else is probably going to inherit your problem. Secondly, handling and transporting a wild animal can be dangerous. Another concern is that any diseases or pests that the relocated animal carries has the potential to spread to the new local population, which puts other animals, and potentially people, at risk.

Keep in mind that relocation isn’t necessarily a guarantee that the animal will survive. The new location will already have a population of animals using the resources (food, water, and shelter) of the area. Those animals will aggressively protect their home from the newcomer. Relocated animals often travel long distances trying to get back home or to find a new place to establish a territory. During this time they are vulnerable to predators and increase their risk of being struck and killed by vehicles. And due to public safety concerns, some animals, like skunks, are required by law to be euthanized.

Sometimes a bird, squirrel, or other animal will gain entry into your house either by falling down the chimney, finding a crack, or coming in through an open door or window.

First step: Stay calm and keep quiet. The animal is already frightened from being in an unfamiliar place. Yelling and chasing the animal will only increase the animal’s stress level and make it harder to get it back outside.

Second step: Block access to other parts of the house by closing doors to the other rooms.  Leave a window (make sure the screen is removed) or door open to the outside. Give the animal some time alone to reorient itself. It will soon show itself out.

If the animal fell down a chimney it may be injured. Do not try to capture an injured animal on your own. Call a nuisance wildlife control operator to catch the animal for you.

Call APHIS Wildlife Services if you need to remove or manage a protected migratory bird. In Illinois, all birds are protected, except European starlings, Pigeons, and House sparrows—all three of which are non-native. If you need a permit to remove a bird or nest, APHIS Wildlife Services should be called before calling the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Nests with no eggs or young can be removed and destroyed without a permit.

Any owner or tenant, or agent acting on their behalf, may scare or herd away migratory birds that are not incubating eggs or raising dependent young when the birds >are causing damage to property, are risks to human health or safety, or become nuisances. Approved methods of scaring include, but are not limited to using:

  • noise-making devices such as propane cannons, air horns, distress calls, whistles, blank shells, cracker shells, or pyrotechnic devices such as bangers and screamers used in accordance with federal regulations (27 CFR 555) and local ordinances,
  • visual methods such as flash tape, balloons, flags, vehicles, fencing, radio-controlled vehicles, dogs or non-harmful light emitting devices, or
  •  chemical repellents that are registered for the non-lethal control of birds by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Additionally, in accordance with federal regulations, any person who has written permission from the landlord or tenant may remove or destroy, by use of a shotgun, air gun or traps, and only on or over the threatened area, any red-winged blackbirds, Brewer’s blackbirds, cowbirds, grackles and crows when they are causing serious injuries to agricultural crops, horticultural crops, livestock feed, or wildlife recognized as species that are endangered, threatened, candidates for listing, or of special concern, or when causing a health hazard or structural property damage.

If you find a dead bird on your property, you may bury it or dispose of it in the garbage.

Wildlife are experts at finding the resources they need for survival: food, water and shelter. By making some small changes in your yard, you may be able to limit the amount of damage.

  • Remove food sources such as spilled bird seed, pet food, garbage or food scraps in compost bins.
  • Fix or remove sources of water such as leaky outdoor faucets, or containers that hold rainwater, like old tires or plastic containers.
  • Remove sources of shelter by: cutting back tree limbs that are within 10 feet of buildings, keeping the grass cut short (3-inches high), and removing brush piles or piles of stacked wood.

Of course, it isn’t always realistic to remove the resources that attract wildlife. Your shade trees, vegetable garden, pond, bird feeder or flower beds aren’t going anywhere, even if they do attract unwanted wildlife. So try keeping wildlife out with well-placed and maintained fences or the proper use of repellents.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) does not remove wildlife from private properties and does not provide funding to reimburse citizens for damage caused by wildlife. The role IDNR plays in wildlife damage management is to provide technical advice to citizens on ways conflicts can be alleviated and to administer permits to ensure that wildlife are properly managed.

Q. I don't see the answer to my question on the website. Where can I get more help?

An Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologist can help you. Just FILL OUT THIS FORM with your question.