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. Besides being protected by the State Wildlife Code, all wild birds (with the exception of Rock Pigeon or Pigeon (Columba livia), European starling (Sturnus vulgaris), and house sparrow (Passer domesticus)) are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This includes protection of eggs, nests, and feathers or body parts. Since most birds are federally protected, they are under the jurisdictions of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the IDNR. The IDNR works with the USFWS to protect and manage birds in Illinois.
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.