Illinois Department of Natural Resources
November 2020
November 2, 2020

Meet the Staff: Kaleb Wood, District Wildlife Biologist and Hunter Heritage Biologist

By Kathy Andrews Wright

Photos by the author.

Growing up on a Shelby County farm, Kaleb Wood had the unique opportunity of watching wildlife management in action, and his observations led to an interest in becoming a natural resources manager.

“Our family farm lies along the West Okaw River, directly across the river from the West Okaw River State Fish and Wildlife Area, one of two units within Shelbyville State Fish and Wildlife Area,” Wood explained. “I watched the site staff undertake a number of management actions on the property, many of which were chores my father asked me to do on our land. As I got to know the site staff and heard them talking about how much they enjoyed working on the land, and understanding that they got paid for what they were doing, I made the decision to go college and pursue a career in natural resources.”

Wood attended Eastern Illinois University (EIU), earning a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology, and is completing his master’s degree from the university.

“As part of the bachelor’s program at EIU I was required to complete a 480-hour internship, earning 12 credit hours,” said Wood. “That internship allowed me to work with a number of Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) wildlife, natural heritage and fisheries biologists. These biologists provided me with a wide range of opportunities where I could develop a variety of skills and form a broad understanding of Illinois’ natural resources and resource management.”

A biologist in a neon green shirt and blue jeans walks through and examines a grassland after a summer prescribed burn. A blue sky is in the background.
Kaleb Wood examines a grassland at Gifford Pheasant Habitat Area after a summer prescribed burn.

In his role as an IDNR District Wildlife Biologist Wood covers Champaign and Vermilion counties where his responsibilities include wildlife management at Herschel Workman Pheasant Habitat Area, Gifford Pheasant Habitat Area, Kickapoo State Recreation Area and Middlefork State Fish and Wildlife Area. Wood works with the IDNR Division of Wildlife Resources’ Habitat Team on grassland management on the Pheasant Habitat Areas, and with site staff on implementation of effective wildlife management practices on the other lands.

“Equally important to my work on public lands is the time spent working with private landowners on developing land management plans, and with constituents within Champaign and Vermilion counties to address any wildlife concerns they may have,” he continued.

Another component of Wood’s job is as a Hunter Heritage Biologist.

“My specialty within the program is as a hunter access specialist,” he elaborated. “My focus is to increase the huntable acres available to people in Illinois and create more opportunities for them to access land where they can hunt. Ultimately, we hope each participant has a chance to hunt somewhere close to home and will invite a friend or family member to join them. Hopefully many will start on a lifetime of hunting.”

Wood’s enthusiasm for his role as a wildlife biologist is evident after even a few moments of conversation.

“I appreciate working in the natural resource management field as the on-the-ground work my counterparts and I do today becomes something bigger down the road,” he concluded. “A prescribed fire we do one year evolves into a great forb patch within just a couple of years. I find great satisfaction in the fact that the public can observe the process, and eventually have the opportunity to enjoy our work, perhaps as a location where they can hunt or hike, birdwatch or take photographs.”

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.