Rock Valley College’s Environmental Science Club featured a presentation about the comeback of 3 main components of Northern Illinois’ original ecosystem. The club’s president, Devin Saunders gave the presentation. The 3 original components are the Black Bear, Grey Wolf, and Mountain Lion. At first, this appears unnerving, but the presentation worked toward the goal that this is a really good thing.
When civilization really took off in Rockford the settlers drove out these animals from the region. As Rockford grew the biodiversity became smaller and smaller as more people came to live there. As the decline of bears, wolves, and lions hit, a void was left in the ecosystem. There was nothing to take the place of controlling the population of hoofed mammals, small mammals, and rodents.
The keystone species for Northern Illinois’ ecosystem are the Grey Wolves. They keep the hoofed animals in line. Through the process of natural selection, the wolves help keep the deer population sustainable and sharp. The Grey Wolves features in a Yellowstone National Park video about how they changed the population and the landscape of the park! Contrary to popular belief they’re not aggressive. Grey Wolves also help with biodiversity of plant life in the region as well.
In case you meet a Black Bear, Grey Wolf, or Mountain Lion, here are some tips Devin shared on what to do.
- Relax: Being calm and refraining from any quick movement or freaking out will not scare the animals.
- Walk Slowly: The key is to handle your nerves and stay calm.
- Appear Big: If the animal still is getting near, put your hands up above your head to seem bigger than anyone else around.
- Make It Known You are Human: Start talking to the animal, not harshly, but talking and being in charge. This process will help deter the scarier animals if your paths happen to cross.
Devin pointed out that, “Education is important. Campsites try to teach people about what to do, but having a session like this increases your knowledge and lets them know the benefits of having them around and what to do.” Being aware can lead to better outcomes. The 20 students that showed up for the club presentation, at least saw the pros and possible cons of the reintroduction of these species, and are better equipped to handle an encounter with a Black Bear. Northern Illinois is booming in more ways than one. Thanks to the Grey Wolf and company we can enjoy our region more.