Trappers in a canoe on a river dressed in 1800s clothing

Wild Illinois History Game

The Wild Illinois History Game is an interactive tool 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. 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 game focuses on communicating factual information associated with the historical, cultural, biological, and management aspects of Illinois wildlife. It encourage students to think about wildlife history and current interactions with wildlife.  

Play the game

To bypass activities in the game use the passwords below. Enter the password on the first screen.

Go to trading post activity - "trading post"

Skip past trading post activity - "trader"

Go to yesterday, today or both activity - "yesterday"

Skip past yesterday, today or both activity - "today"

Go to timeline activity - "timeline"

Skip past timeline activity - "leopold"

Photo of a beaver dam

Beaver or not?

The presence of wildlife can have positive and negative effects on human activities. This activity will enable students to discuss the potential for wildlife benefits and conflicts, understand that there may be a variety of opinions addressing one issue, and simulate a town board meeting and discuss and decide on an issue related to the environment.

Photo of fur pelts at trading rendezvous

Fur trade rendezvous

The fur trade was an important part of the economy for various cultures in the Illinois Territory. Using this activity, students will be able to explain the premise of fur trading in the region during the fur trade era (1700s to early 1800s), list examples of furs that were traded during the fur trade, discuss ways that trading impacted various cultures in the region, and discuss the advantages and difficulties of an economy based on trade between people of different cultures.

Photo of two American badgers by Ryan Hagerty, USFWS

Furbearers of Illinois

Furbearer is the name given to mammals that traditionally have been hunted and trapped for fur. There are 14 species of furbearers in Illinois, although only 12 species may be legally hunted and/or trapped. Furbearers that are legally harvested for human use are always common and abundant. Through this activity, students will gain a vocabulary and knowledge about furbearers' ecology and conservation.

Photo of a beaver sitting in grass by Sheila Newenham

Regulating the harvest

Fur harvesting practices in the early Illinois Territory led to wildlife such as beavers becoming almost extinct in Illinois by 1900. By participating in their own classroom “harvest,” students will be able to understand how hunters and trappers in the Illinois Territory over-harvested wildlife such as beaver. Students can see how wildlife conservation science and regulations keep today’s beaver populations healthy.

Photo of two river otters by Dmitry Azovtsev

River otter adaptations

Animals have body parts suited for their lifestyle and habitat. Use this river otter body parts and adaptations diagram along with otter matching cards to teach about animal adaptations and, specifically, how otters thrive on land and in the water.

Photo of a river otter by Sheila Newenham

Too many river otters?

Illinois wildlife biologists manage populations of animals. Explore the methods they use to increase, decrease or stabilize wildlife populations. Learn about carrying capacity and how to identify good river otter habitat.

Photo of an early trapper and modern trapper

Trappers Then and Now

Modern trappers are much different than trappers who paddled canoes through the Illinois Territory in the 1800s. This exercise helps students compare historic and modern approaches to and beliefs about wildlife and trapping. Students can discuss the trapper’s life then and now. They also can compare furbearer over-harvesting in the 1800s to current practices. Finally, students can learn how modern trappers contribute to wildlife conservation in Illinois.

Historic photo of Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir

Words and pictures connect nature and people - the American conservation movement

Men and women during the American Conservation Movement used their skills as writers and illustrators to communicate their passion of the natural world to others. Persuasive essays and articles have been used throughout history to motivate people to be concerned about environmental issues and special places. Read conservation writing from Illinois and learn about conservation pioneers.