Mike McClelland, Chief, Division of Fisheries

Invasive species become especially conspicuous in the spring. Illinois roadsides become masses of white blooming trees—most of which are Callery pears. On lakes throughout the state, pairs of stately mute swans begin to show their aggressive nature as cygnets come on the scene. Fisheries biologists head afield to monitor the status of invasive carp in the Illinois River. Woodland understories start to green up, with bush honeysuckle and garlic mustard often showing their colors early. Whether you live in an urban setting or rural environment, it is likely you could encounter some invasive species on a daily basis. Kudzu, buckthorn, purple loosestrife, silver carp, zebra mussels, feral swine, Asian longhorned beetle, spotted lanternfly, emerald ash borer…the list goes on. Invasive species alter natural environments, compete with native species for the resources necessary for survival and visually alter the natural lands where we recreate. The Illinois Wildlife Action Plan lists managing invasive species as one of the six primary threats to conservation in Illinois.

May is Invasive Species Awareness Month in Illinois. To increase awareness of these organisms, many of the articles in this issue of OutdoorIllinois Journal highlight how natural resource professionals and volunteers are working to combat the spread of invasive species with the goal of protecting Illinois’ native flora and fauna. One article explains why May was selected for Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month. Several articles detail the work to curb the spread of Asian carp. You’ll also find articles on mute swans, a volunteer invasive species removal effort in Menard County, and why exotic and dangerous animals and monitored and controlled.

As many of us are enjoying fishing the walleye run, as well as crappie and bluegill spawning, we have so many reasons to celebrate everything positive about spring and the nature of Illinois. We continue to highlight the natural communities of Illinois by exploring the Northeastern Morainal Natural Division and examine bogs, one of Illinois’ most unique habitats, in depth. Our series on the 60th anniversary of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission (Commission) continues with two features by former Commission Executive Directors.

Be sure to check out the stories on how fish and fishing are utilized by two individuals in northeast Illinois to spark a conservation passion in youth.

Remember those two young male mountain lions that roamed into Illinois in 2022? We’ve got a story that discusses what biologists learned about those animals.

For readers interested in land management techniques to benefit wildlife, check out the articles on prescribed fire, herbicide drift, monarch butterflies, forest-dwelling songbirds and wetland restoration.

May also is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month. To build your understanding of the health impacts of Lyme disease, check out the article on one family’s fight for their daughter’s health.

We’ve prepared even more for you in this edition of OutdoorIllinois Journal. Look for articles on coyotes, white-tailed deer, ground squirrels, wild turkeys, dragonflies, orioles, fishing the Ohio River and more. Click through the links to discover all these features. And as a reminder, April 1 began a new fishing season in Illinois, so if you haven’t already, renew those fishing licenses and take someone fishing this spring.

OutdoorIllinois Journal is a collaborative effort led by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Divisions of Wildlife Resources and Natural Heritage and Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration and the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. Funding for OutdoorIllinois Journal was made available through Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Project W-147-T, the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund and the Fish Management Fund.

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