Wild Illinois History is an interactive, educational site developed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to serve as a resource for Illinois teachers and students interested in the state’s wildlife heritage.

Wildlife has played a major role in the evolution of our country, culture and the formation of the State of Illinois. From inception, the pursuit of wildlife as an economic commodity shaped geographical boundaries, stimulated political objectives, and established a national consciousness with regard to the use of natural resources.

Though most Illinois citizens no longer have direct and extended contact with wildlife, it remains an important element of its social fabric. As Illinois’ society moved from hunter/gatherers to agrarians and industrialists, the understanding of wildlife and its role has become more distant and vague. Evolving perceptions of wildlife are underscored by misunderstanding, misinformation, and emotional reaction associated with how it should be managed.

Wild Illinois History provides an overview of how wildlife influenced the shaping of Illinois and its culture, and compares and contrasts the influence on the people of Illinois today. The site focuses on communicating factual information associated with the historical, cultural, biological, and management aspects of Illinois wildlife. Interactive activities encourage students to think about wildlife history and current interactions with wildlife.  Furbearing mammals are the primary species discussed, due in part to their economic value to Native Americans and European settlers and their common presence throughout the state today. Activities are available to teachers who want to further explore the Illinois wildlife heritage subject with students.

Goals

  • Improve students’ understanding of the relationship between wildlife and the people of Illinois, both past and present.
  • Improve students' understanding of how human settlement affected wildlife populations and how conservation practices shape wildlife populations today.