Wildlife

River Forest is a beautiful community with abundant greenery and trees. Most of the time we don't mind sharing our Village with the urban wildlife who also call River Forest home. But every once in awhile, the needs of wildlife and people can intersect and present challenges. Fortunately, most of them are easily resolved.

Please see the list below for information on the most frequently asked questions about urban wildlife.   The Village of River Forest gratefully acknowledges the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for providing most of the information in the following section, and recommends consulting their page "Living with Wildlife" for further details.  

If you have a suggestion for a topic that is not covered below, please contact Village Hall. 

Deer

In Illinois, white-tailed deer are protected under the Wildlife Code as a Game species. Deer can be legally hunted in Illinois during set seasons in the fall and winter. Deer hunting regulations can be found in the Hunting and Trapping Digest on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) website.

Homeowners are not permitted to remove nuisance deer. For additional information on removing deer causing property damage contact your local IDNR District Wildlife Biologist.

It is illegal to take live deer from the wild unless you are a wildlife rehabilitator who is licensed by the IDNR or you have received a permit from the IDNR.

Damage Prevention and Control Measures

Deer can cause damage by browsing trees, shrubs, or other plants. Bucks may also damage woody plants by rubbing their antlers on them. Deer are generalists and will eat a tremendous variety of plants. If food is abundant they will feed heavily on plants they particularly like. If food is scarce they will feed on almost any plant.

Habitat Modification

If adding ornamental plantings to your yard, select plant species that are less susceptible to deer browsing. The Morton Arboretum has produced a list of plants that deer tend to avoid. Some of the plants that seem to be less susceptible to deer include ornamental alliums (Allium), daffodils (Narcissus), and wild ginger (Asarum canadense). Also try planting thorny, prickly, or smelly plants. However, this approach does not always work. For example, deer will eat the buds, blooms, and smaller stems of ornamental tea roses. They also eat raspberries, blackberries, and poison ivy. Plant boxwood or short-needle spruces instead of yews or arborvitae. Illinois natives such as black-eyed susan and foxglove do not seem to be preferred by deer. For a more complete list of perennials that are deer-resistant, visit the Gardening with Perennials website. Pachysandra is a good ground cover, and ferns fair better than hostas. Deer love apples and cherries, so you may have to use tree protectors or fences to protect your fruit trees. If food is scarce due to a severe winter, or if the population of deer in your area is high, the deer may eat plants they do not normally prefer and usually leave alone. A deer will eat just about any plant if it is hungry enough.

Exclusion

There are a number of possible fence designs depending on the size of the area to be protected and the population of deer in the area. Specific fence designs can be obtained from your District Wildlife Biologist. For more information about deer fences, visit the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management.

Individual trees or plants can be protected by placing a five foot tall wire cylinder around the plant. Tree protectors such as Vexar, Tubex, plastic tree wrap, or woven wire cylinders can all help protect new plantings. Placing netting over bushes or other plants can also be used temporarily on a seasonal basis to deter deer.

Repellents

There are several products approved for use in deer damage control. Repellents will reduce the damage that deer cause to vegetation but will not eliminate it. The repellant's effectiveness depends upon local deer density, the availability of other foods, the palatability of the plants being protected, and the regularity with which the repellent is used. Repellents may prevent deer from eating the plant, but they will not deter damage caused by antler-rubbing.

Repellents can be expensive and must be reapplied as the plant grows and after heavy precipitation events. Always read and follow label instructions of the product. Some repellents are not for use on plants intended for human consumption. Below are some commonly available repellents. To be most effective, it is best to start using repellents before damage begins. Researchers have found the following products to be effective at reducing deer damage.

  • Deer Away® Big Game Repellent (powder or spray) The active ingredient in these product is putrescent whole egg solids.
  • Deer Away® Deer and Rabbit repellent (Get Away Deer and Rabbit Repellent) The active ingredient in this product is capsaicin and isothiocyanate.
  • Plantskydd™ The active ingredient in this product is edible animal protein.
  • Bye Deer® Sachets The active ingredient in this product is sodium salts of mixed fatty acids. To be fully effective, this product should be placed at the top of the plant so that rainwater that dissolves the product will fall onto plant surfaces.
  • Deerbuster's™ Sachet The active ingredient in this product is meat meal and red pepper. To be fully effective, this product should be placed at the top of the plant so that rainwater that dissolves the product will fall onto plant surfaces.
  • Hinder® The active ingredient in this product is ammonium soaps of higher fatty acids. This product is the only product approved for direct application to plants intended for consumption. However, this product was not as effective in trials as the products listed above.
Home Remedies

Home remedies are not generally effective, but do work in some cases. Some people have had success in deterring deer browse by hanging bars of deodorant soap or bags of human hair around valuable plants. While bars of soap can be effective, the protection they offer extends only about three feet around the bar. Human hair, blood meal, and bone meal all weather very quickly and lose their effectiveness.

Solving a Wildlife Problem Myself

Did you know that you do not own the wildlife on your property? In Illinois, all species of wildlife are held in public trust by the state. This means that the people of Illinois own wildlife, not individual property owners. According to the Wildlife Code (520 ILCS 5/), ?wildlife means any bird or mammal living in a state of nature without the care of man.? This legislation gives the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) the authority to manage wildlife and to regulate the taking of wildlife. To take a bird or animal means to hunt, shoot, pursue, lure, kill, destroy, capture, gig or spear, trap or ensnare, harass, or to attempt to do so. The IDNR is also given the responsibility to take all measures necessary for the conservation, distribution, introduction and restoration of birds and mammals.

The Wildlife Code provides protection for Illinois wildlife. For example, it is illegal for an Illinois resident to take, kill, possess, sell, keep as a pet, or transport any wild animals or birds without the proper licenses or permits. 

If you wish to remove a bird or animal from your property, you will need an animal removal permit from the IDNR. You can request a permit from your local IDNR wildlife biologist. Animals that are removed must be released onto the property from which they were captured, relocated to another property, or humanely euthanized. Each situation is different, and your local IDNR biologist will determine how the situation should be handled after investigating the case. If an animal is relocated, prior written permission must be obtained from the landowner of the property where the animal will be released. You always need the permission of the landowner. Animals may NOT be released in state, county, or municipal parks, nature preserves, or natural areas. If you think you have a situation that warrants removing an animal or bird and you wish to handle the issue yourself, contact your local IDNR District Wildlife Biologist to request an animal removal permit.

Coyote Information

From time to time, the Village receives reports from residents of coyote sightings. Residents are cautioned that coyotes are generally not dangerous to humans, but they are can be territorial when protecting their young, and should not be approached.

Small pets may be considered prey by coyotes, please do not leave your pets outside unsupervised.

Tips to protect your family and pets from coyotes include:

  • Never feed coyotes- Feeding lures coyotes into neighborhoods
  • Do not leave small pets unattended outside, even in a fenced in yard
  • Keep dogs on a short leash while walking outside
  • Yell, clap hands or blow a whistle and try to make yourself look larger if a coyote approaches
  • Do not allow a coyote to get in between you and your pet or child

Coyote Information from the Cook County Department of Animal Control

Avoid Conflicts with Coyotes from Urban Coyote Research - Cook County

Skunks

Some areas of the Village are reporting an increase in the number of skunk sightings. The Village recommends reviewing the information/tips below (courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR):

Many mammals (including skunks) are legally protected by the Illinois Wildlife Code. The Directory of Illinois Wildlife is an excellent resource with information on preventing & solving issues with urban wildlife.

Control

Tips to make your residence less desirable to skunks and other wildlife:

  • Secure garbage cans/lids tightly and make sure dumpster lids are closed especially at night
  • Remove bird feeders from property
  • Never leave pet food outside overnight
  • Remove brush and/or wood piles
  • Seal any and all openings around the foundation of your home
  • Use window well covers to prevent skunks from falling into window wells - you can also use wire mesh
  • Consider fencing to keep skunks off property or at least away from small areas like gardens
  • Devices meant to scare wildlife such as strobe lights are generally not very effective - but may do the trick in some situations

Currently, there are no registered repellents for skunks.

Removal

Skunks can only be legally removed by a licensed nuisance wildlife control operator. Or, if you prefer to attempt to remove the skunk yourself (which is generally not recommended), you must contact an Illinois Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist in order to obtain an animal removal permit and instructions on how to properly and safely trap and remove the animal.

Skunks & Rabies

While skunks are generally not dangerous if undisturbed, they can be carriers of rabies (although this is rare - most cases of rabies in the U.S. come from bats). If you observe a skunk that seems to have lost the fear of people, has uncoordinated movements or seizures, call the Cook County Animal Control office at (708) 974-6140 to request removal of the skunk, followed by a call to the Cook County Department of Public Health at (708) 633-4000.

Professional Services

The University of Illinois offers an extension for "Living with Wildlife." View the Professional Services Resource Page to find more resources.

If your pet is sprayed

Several sources are reporting the following "recipe" to be the most effective to remove skunk spray from pets:

Mix 1-quart Hydrogen Peroxide, 1/4 baking soda and one teaspoon of liquid soap and apply to the affected pet. Leave on for five minutes. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

High numbers of skunks

Daily Southtown published an article on the high number of skunks being reported in 2015.

According to the Humane Society of the United States,

Occasional skunk sightings in a neighborhood are not a cause for alarm. Because skunks are generally easy-going, they will not intentionally bother people. In fact, skunks may benefit humans by eating many insects and rodents we regard as pests. The nocturnal habits of skunks, their unaggressive nature , and the generally beneficial role they play in nature by consuming insects and rodents are all good reasons to leave them alone until they have moved on their own accord (which they readily do) or can safely be harassed away from an area where they are not wanted.

Removal of deceased animals

If a large animal such as a deer, is impeding traffic on the roadway, please call 9-1-1.

If smaller animals such as squirrels, raccoons, possums, etc are found on Village streets or alleys, please either call Village Hall at (708) 366-8500 during normal business hours (Mondays 8:00 am to 7:00 pm, Tuesday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm) and request that staff initiate a service request to have it removed, or, submit a service request online.