By Greg Bishop – Illinois News Network
A central Illinois man is mounting an effort to ensure wolves don’t get caught up in urban coyote hunts. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says there’s no indication of that happening.
Jay Smith lives near Macomb and organized a march in Springfield Tuesday to draw attention to a problem he said is being overlooked. Illinois has wolves, some are protected species, and they’re being killed by people going after coyotes. He said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources knows about it.
“And there’s a huge contingency of Illinois citizens that don’t like seeing this happen,” Smith said. “We’re not a barbaric state here.”
Doug Dufford is the program manager for both the Wildlife Disease and Invasive Species and Large Carnivore programs at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He said Illinois has had 11 confirmed wolf cases since 2002.
“A lot of them were shot by hunters,” Dufford said. “Others were roadkill.”
While Smith contends he has DNA evidence of illegal killings of the endangered and protected red wolves in his area, Dufford said that hasn’t been proven, nor has it been shown coyote hunters are bagging wolves.
“At this point in time, there really isn’t any evidence to suggest that there are significant numbers of wolves in this state and that coyote hunters are killing any,” Duffard said.
Duffard said Illinois is seeing a small but increasing number of traveling western Great Lakes wolf populations out of Wisconsin, but there are no longer red wolves in the wild. He said red wolves are only found in captivity and on the endangered species list.
Dufford said DNA samples provided by Smith are being reviewed in collaboration with the Field Museum in Chicago, but there’s no indication there are protected red wolves in Illinois. He said too often people confuse a wolf-dog hybrid as a wolf, or coyotes as wolves.
To deal with the issue of increased urban sightings of coyotes, Rob Erickson with Scientific Wildlife Management told the Springfield City Council last month his tracking system provides alerts for when coyotes are more aggressive.
“If there was a den near a playground or near an elementary school, we certainly would not want that,” Erickson said. “That might be another reason for us to come in and warrant removal.”
Erickson’s team also does the removing.
Dufford said nuisance wildlife trapping businesses like Erickson’s are highly regulated, undergo examinations, have to pass tests and file regular reports with the state’s wildlife officials.