10 Interesting Animals in Illinois – You May Not Know

Do you know that a diverse range of wild and interesting animals are present in Illinois? This developed state has a list of state parks where many interesting animals in Illinois are thriving.

interesting animals in illinois

The official state animal of Illinois, the white-tailed deer, roams in its woodlands and grasslands. Tourists come for North Cardinal’s melodious song as it brings cheer to gardens and parks throughout the state.

Let us introduce you to the top 10 interesting animals in Illinois that call it home, each with the distinct characteristics that set it apart from the ordinary.

Places to Find Interesting Animals in Illinois National Parks

As you explore the wilderness of this Midwestern National Parks, you’ll find yourself immersed in the wildlife where the wild and the untamed interesting animals of Illinois coexist.

From the bustling, busy metro city of Chicago to the peaceful ambiance of its national parks, Illinois has great parks with many interesting animals of Illinois that go unnoticed in the urban hustle and bustle.

Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park is a natural wonder located in northern Illinois, where nature enthusiasts experience its breathtaking canyons, majestic waterfalls, dense woodlands, and other animals. This park has gained recognition as one of the most visited parks.

Starved Rock State Park

Matthiessen State Park

This park is located in Illinois. It has many wonderlands that include canyons, waterfalls, and lush greenery, attracting nature enthusiasts and hikers.

Matthiessen State Park

Giant City State Park

Giant City State Park, situated in Illinois, is a haven for nature enthusiasts with its breathtaking rock formations and lush forests.

Giant City State Park

These state parks have many endemic animals, such as white-tailed deer, raccoons, squirrels, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, rabbits, and groundhogs. Apart from these wild animals, some rare bird species, like cardinals, blue-jays, and woodpeckers, are also inhabiting here.

Illinois has a vast ecosystem that ranges from dense forests to enormous wetlands. This ecosystem is home to many rare, endangered, and critically endangered species. 

All these unique animals have distinct characteristics and adaptations. Many visitors explore many different wild animals in the state’s rich biodiversity. The presence of lesser-known animal species in the Shawnee National Forest shows the delicate balance that sustains wildlife.

Where to Find Interesting Animals in Illinois?

Illinois has some state parks that host various Threatened animal species. One of the well-known wild creatures is the majestic eagle, often observed soaring across the skies.

interesting animals in illinois

The national park is also a sanctuary for Hine’s emerald dragonfly, nearly a threatened species. However, conservationists are constantly working to restore their delicate wetland habitats.

The slithering elusive eastern Massasauga rattlesnake lives in Illinois’s dense forest, wet prairies, and sedge meadows. You can even find the charming Eastern red bat, the enigmatic spotted salamander, and the elusive Eastern milk snake, making the national parks of Illinois a highly rich ecosystem.

interesting animals in illinois

Shawnee National Forest

This national park is located in southern Illinois. Here you can discover rare and other interesting animals. Like white-tailed deer, this deer species roam freely and exhibits its adaptability to forest life. 

Shawnee National Forest

The Shawnee National Forest is also home toexpert predators, bobcats. These large cats are skilled in navigating the rugged terrain. 

Shawnee National Forest

Apart from wild land animals, you can also discover unique aquatic animals in Illinois National Park, like encountering eastern box turtles with their striking shell patterns

Shawnee National Forest

Other species living in this national park are the Eastern cottontail rabbit, the hognose snake, and the charming Eastern chipmunk, the black bear, thriving in the wildlife of Illinois. 

You can also reconnect with nature by joining activities like hiking, camping, swimming, boating, and fishing at Lake Glendale Recreation Area. Lake Glendale Recreation Area is located in the Shawnee National Forest.

Shawnee National Forest

10 Interesting Animals in Illinois – (With Pictures)

In this blog, you’ll discover the 10 interesting animals and where these Illinois animals are found. From elusive reptiles to charming mammals, Illinois houses a treasure trove of interesting animals that are worth exploring.

White-Tailed Deer

interesting animals in illinois

In southern Illinois, these iconic deer species are often seen in both urban and rural landscapes in Illinois. These deer family members are grazers and usually eat twigs, leaves, grass, and vegetables. 

The white-tailed deer is named after their physical feature, which includes its white tail. They have a keen sense and impressive agility, which helps them to survive in the wild.

 However, the overpopulation of these deer species and habitat destruction can cause an imbalance in the entire ecosystem. These deer are marked as Least Concern species on the IUCN red list.

Gray Wolf

interesting animals in illinois

So far, only 11 gray wolves have been recorded in the national park. It is one of the most interesting animals in Illinois, which falls under the category of an endangered species. 

This important species went extinct once due to overhunting and habitat loss in Illinois. But, wildlife conservationists are focused on increasing and protecting the gray wolf population.

The gray wolf has thick gray fur and looks like a German Shepherd dog. These amazing wild animals are highly adaptable and inhabit diverse natural habitats, like dense forests, open grasslands, tundra, taiga, and mountains. 

They are the apex predators and play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. Their absence from nature can cause an increase in the population of grazers (animals that are herbivores).

Red Foxes

interesting animals in illinois

Red foxes are one of the interesting Illinois animals. They are often seen stealthily navigating in the forests and grasslands in search of their prey. These foxes are usually active from dawn to dusk. 

How to recognize the red fox if spotted?

The upper side of their fur is mostly reddish brown, with white underparts and a bushy tail. Additionally, you might spot them on the campground. But there is a lesser chance of it.

Do you know? This fox species is protected under Illinois law, but it can also be delisted with a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

River Otters

interesting animals in illinois

These charismatic aquatic mammals are popular for their playful behavior and excellent swimming skills. With their streamlined bodies and webbed feet, they are perfectly adapted to aquatic life. River otters eat fishes, crustaceans, and amphibians, using their sensitive whiskers to detect prey underwater.

Despite facing habitat loss and pollution threats, conservation efforts have helped some populations recover. Presently the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species listed otters as “Least Concern.”

Eastern Gray Squirrel

interesting animals in illinois

Eastern grey squirrels are expert climbers, easily scampering up trees to search for nuts, acorns, and seeds. These agile and curious rodents have bushy tails and gray fur. Their fur color ranges from dark brown to black, with white underparts.

Squirrels are highly adaptable and thrive in diverse habitats, from urban parks and suburban backyards to deciduous forests. Eastern gray squirrels are crucial for the forest ecosystem, as they help in seed dispersal.

Black Bears

interesting animals in illinois

It is the only species of bear native to Illinois. Despite their name, their fur can range from black to dark brown. Although sightings are rare, black bears have been observed in the southern parts of the state. 

Black Bears are omnivorous and feed on fruits, nuts, insects, and occasionally small mammals (depending on the season). Their natural habitats are urban and suburban areas. They are excellent climbers and swimmers, which helps them in foraging for food and escaping from potential threats.

Brown Rat

interesting animals in illinois

It is also called the Norway rat and is one of the most interesting animals in Illinois. These invasive species are inhabitants of many parts of Europe and North America. Their reproductive capabilities have contributed to their widespread distribution.

These rats have a distinctive appearance with a stout body, short ears, and a scaly tail. Their fur color can vary from brown to gray, and they have a lighter-colored belly.

 Brown rats are highly adaptable and thrive in a variety of habitats, including urban areas, farmlands, and natural environments. They are opportunistic feeders, consuming a wide range of foods, including grains, fruits, insects, and scraps left by humans.

 Due to their scavenging behavior and ability to reproduce rapidly, brown rats have become pests in many urban areas, which cause damage to property and pose health risks as they carries various diseases.


interesting animals in illinois

These medium-sized mammals are native to North America and can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, wetlands, and urban areas. Their adaptability helped them to thrive in both urban and suburban areas.

Raccoons are omnivores, meaning they have a diverse diet that includes fruits, nuts, insects, and small mammals. They have a strong sense of smell and sharp claws that help them to search for food. During the colder months, raccoons do not truly hibernate.

Despite their adaptability and abundance, raccoons face challenges from human interactions, such as habitat loss, vehicle collisions, and conflicts with pet animals.

Thirteen-lined ground squirrel

interesting animals in illinois

The name of the thirteen-lined group squirrel derives from the thirteen stripes that adorn their backs. Thirteen-lined ground squirrels primarily inhabit grasslands, open fields, and prairies. In their natural habitats, they construct complex burrow systems for shelter and hibernation. 

How do they survive in the wild?

These burrows serve as crucial protection against predators and extreme weather conditions. They are important prey for many predators, such as birds and snakes.

Do these squirrels hibernate?

During the winter months, they undergo a period of hibernation to conserve energy. Their quick movements and agility make them skilled at escaping potential threats.


interesting animals in illinois

Bobcats are one of the most interesting animals in Illinois. When it comes to their appearance, these large cats have tufted ears and stubby tails. One of the interesting facts about these wild cats is they change their fur color seasonally.

Their fur remains reddish brown in summer, and it turns grayish brown in winter. They do this for better camouflage and their survival in the wild. 

Bobcats are skilled hunters, preying on rabbits, rodents, and birds, playing a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance by controlling rodent populations.

The occasional sightings of the bobcats near human settlements are evidence that they have the ability to coexist. However, these wild cats are reclusive in nature.

Frequently Asked Questions

What animal is Illinois known for?

Illinois is known for the white-tailed deer.

What is the most common animal in Illinois?

The most common animal in Illinois is likely the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). 

Are there any wild animals in Illinois?

Some of the commonly found wild animals in Illinois include 
Squirrels (Eastern gray squirrels and fox squirrels)
white-tailed deer.
Rabbits (Eastern cottontail rabbits)
Birds (cardinals, blue jays, robins, etc.)
Garter snakes
Turtles (Eastern box turtles and snapping turtles)
Frogs and toads (American bullfrog, green frog)

What animal is native to Illinois?

Some of the notable native animals in Illinois include the Eastern cottontail rabbit, Eastern gray squirrel, American beaver, Red fox, white-tailed deer, and Bobcat.

Olivia Kepner