It has been another interesting fall season. Fall colors, although scarce, finally arrived, but the predicted low temperatures this week will likely end the display. Most of us living in Illinois look forward to these seasonal changes of color, temperatures and even snow.
For many wildlife species, the fall season has changed their behavior too. Young mammals that were born this spring have dispersed from the adults, looking for their own territory or home range. Raccoons and squirrels have been on the hunt for warm den sites for the winter. I hope that you have been sealing up holes in your home and making sure vents and chimneys are appropriately screened to prevent unwanted winter guests.
Another mammal movement happening throughout Illinois right now involves white-tailed deer. Late fall and early winter is the breeding season for this animal, so behavior changes occur with the bucks or males. Oftentimes the bucks ignore danger in pursuit of a female, or doe. For example, they may cross roads without regard to your car rapidly approaching. Remember to drive with extra caution at dusk through dawn during this time of year. When you see one deer crossing the road, more may follow.
A very unique movement of wildlife, more of a migration, we might witness during the next several weeks involves an endangered species, the Whooping Crane. For several years, I reminded folks in central Illinois about a migration involving a partnership of man and nature, that being a team of scientists from Canada and the United States leading whooping cranes to Florida using ultralight aircrafts. The project, called “Operation Migration”, that once led young Whooping Cranes through central Illinois each fall, has changed its strategy for the establishment of an eastern flock of Whooping Cranes in the United States.
According to the Operation Migration website, “In early 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the aircraft-guided method was too “artificial” and that cranes raised by costumed handlers, missed early learning opportunities. As a result, it was speculated that they did not properly nurture or protect their chicks when they had their own offspring. It was suggested that this inattentiveness was the cause of high pre-fledge mortality at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge”
Although the aircraft led migration is not occurring in 2017, the project continued at the national wildlife refuge in Wisconsin through the release of parent raised crane chicks with adult cranes on the refuge. The migration of the 2017 crane chicks is being monitored by Operation Migration staff, as are the movements of previously released birds.
On the Operation Migration website, you can also report Whooping Crane sightings. In fact, two cranes were seen in Champaign County during the last week of October! Since many of the whooping cranes learned a migration route from Wisconsin to Florida that tracked through Cumberland County, you too may have an opportunity to file a sighting report.
If you would like to follow this project’s efforts and the 2017 Whooping Crane migration, go to http://www.operationmigration.org/ . If you have questions or need more information contact the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034, or you can reach me at 217-543-3755.
For more information on University of Illinois Extension programming in Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Moultrie and Shelby counties, visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html or call us at 217-345-7034.