Wolf In Illinois: Everything You Need To Know

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Amin Tawar

Wolf In Illinois
Wolf In Illinois: Everything You Need To Know

From white-tailed deer to channel catfish, the state of Illinois is home to a variety of mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and fish. Gray wolves are also a part of this diverse range of wildlife.

The presence of a variety of habitats like Tallgrass prairies, forests, wetlands, sand dunes etc, make Illinois a suitable habitat for these gray wolves. Once nearly extinct in the state, gray wolves are currently found living in the northern region of the state.

Though the likelihood of encountering a wolf in Illinois is low, it’s however, pertinent to know their history and role in the ecosystem to better appreciate, and understand the natural world and take action to protect it. 

Below I’ve explained all the things you need to know about the Wolves in Illinois.

Are Wolves Found in Illinois?

Yes, though in a few numbers, wolves are found in Illinois. Their population is restricted to the sparsely populated forests in the northern part of the state including counties like Carroll, Jo Daviess, and Ogle. 

However, as wolves are mobile creatures and travel a long distance to set up a pack, hunt, or mate, these carnivores maybe sometimes also found in other regions.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is responsible for managing and tracking the wolf population in the state. IDNR does not disclose the exact and specific location of individual wolves or packs for their safety. 

However, IDNR occasionally conducts surveys to track the wolf population, especially in winter when it’s easier to track them.

Are Wolves Coming Back to Illinois?

Yes, wolves are coming back to Illinois, and it is something to cheer about. 

Historically, Gray wolves are a native species of Illinois and were found across the state. However, due to hunting, religious beliefs, habitat loss, and prey scarcity, most of the wolves in Illinois were eradicated in the early 1900s. 

In the late 1900s, due to pressure and outrage from conservationists and the public, the government began reintroduction programs to restore the wolf population in their historic range. This included the reintroduction of wolves to the Great Lake region, including Illinois. 

While, the population has been slowly growing, as of 2021, Illinois is home to about 300 wolves. As the number of wolves may fluctuate from time to time, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources often conducts surveys to estimate and track wolf population and distribution across the state.

How Big Are Wolves in Illinois?

Wolf In Illinois
Wolf In Illinois: Everything You Need To Know

Gray wolves are the largest wild canine found in Illinois. Like those living in other states, adult male gray wolves in Illinois weigh on average about 70 to 100 pounds and stand at 2.5 to 3 feet. Adult female wolves in Illinois are slightly smaller, weighing between 50 to 85 pounds and standing at 2 to 2.5 feet.

It is important to note that the size of wolves in a state will depend largely on their geographic location and species. For example, adult male wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains weigh about 150 pounds on average compared to the southwest U.S. where adult male wolves weigh just 75 to 80 pounds. 

Also Check Our Guide On Wolves In Massachusetts

Are Wolves Illegal in Illinois? Can you Own One?

Yes, It is illegal to own a wolf in Illinois. To conserve and maintain their population, wolves in Illinois are listed in the Endangered Species. It is also important to note that wolves are protected by state and federal government and therefore owning a wolf without a valid license would constitute a federal violation.

Some exceptions are there for this rule though. National parks, wildlife rehabilitation facilities, and educational institutes may be able to get permits to possess and exhibit gray wolves after meeting the requirements and conditions set by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. 

While these permits are rare and subjected to strict regulations, individuals may also obtain the permit to exhibit or use wolves for entertainment purposes. 

Can You Hunt Wolf in Illinois?

No. It is illegal to hunt, kill or injure a wolf in the state of Illinois. Due to gray wolf eradication in the mid-1900s, gray wolves are designated protected in the state of Illinois. 

The wolves are also listed in the Endangered species act which provides additional protection for the species and its habitats. 

Therefore, unless you own special permits, it’s illegal to hunt/ kill wolves in Illinois. Penalties for violating these laws include hefty fines, imprisonment, and forfeiture of hunting and fishing privileges.

Also Check Our Guide On Wolves In US


And that was everything you need to know about the wolves in Illinois. I hope this article is helpful and your queries were answered.

Thank You For Reading!

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