Illinois Department of Natural Resources
February 2020
February 1, 2020
Photo courtesy of the IDNR.

Meet the Chief: Mike Wefer Tagged to Head Division of Wildlife Resources

By Kathy Andrews Wright

Mike Wefer was named the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) Division of Wildlife Resources Chief in November 2019. With nearly 30 years of experience he is certainly no stranger to the needs of wildlife and wildlife constituents. Wefer credits his early job as a Wildlife Summer Worker with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers on Lake Shelbyville for igniting and focusing his passion for professional wildlife management.

“After having that first taste of wildlife management work, I was hooked,” he explained. “Wildlife became my vocation.”  

Wefer acknowledges that he has had the benefit of many sage and patient mentors throughout his career. He attended Eastern Illinois University, earning a bachelor’s degree in Zoology, and went to work as a Ranger Assistant for the DuPage County Forest Preserve District. After a brief stint in DuPage County he continued his education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he received a master’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. Wefer has been active in The Wildlife Society since graduate school and has served as President and Councilperson-at-Large for the Illinois Chapter.

Before joining IDNR, Wefer worked as a Biological Scientist Supervisor in Florida managing the Big Bend and Aucilla Wildlife Management Areas and as a contract biologist for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Wefer is well versed in Illinois wildlife management issues. 

A portrait of a hunter in camouflage gear.
Photo courtesy of Mike Wefer.

“I joined IDNR 21 years ago, starting as an Associate Wildlife Biologist and serving as a District Wildlife Biologist for 10 years,” he said. He then moved into management level positions, serving as the Agriculture and Grassland Wildlife Program Manager and most recently the Wildlife Field Operations Section Head, overseeing activities of district wildlife biologists throughout the state. On the regional and national level, Wefer serves on the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Public Lands Working Group and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Agricultural Conservation Committee. Recognizing the value of prescribed fire in wildlife management, he serves on the Illinois Prescribed Burn Manager Certification Board and the IDNR Prescribed Fire Working Group. 

He plans to spend his initial time on the job meeting with staff to get up-to-speed on the details of various programs and issues taking place throughout the state. When asked what his plans were for the Division, Wefer replied “At this point, I feel a little bit like a new college football coach, with my answer being that we will continue to focus on our “fundamentals,” which include legislated mandates, the Public Trust Doctrine and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, and delivering on the objectives identified in the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan.”

Wefer grew up on a farm in rural Shobonier, in Fayette County. Married to his college sweetheart and the father of four children, he enjoys bow hunting in his ghillie suit, stream fishing and serving in local missions in his spare time.

Welcome Chief Wefer. We look forward to working with you and your staff on management of Illinois’ wildlife resources.

Kathy Andrews Wright is retired from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources where she was editor of Outdoor Illinois magazine. She is currently the editor of Outdoor Illinois Wildlife Journal and Illinois Audubon magazine.