Discovering Wildlife in Summer at Shawnee National Forest

Nestled in the heart of southern Illinois, Shawnee National Forest is a haven for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. During the summer months, the forest comes alive with an incredible array of flora and fauna. From the forest floor to the treetops, wildlife thrives in this lush, diverse ecosystem. Let’s explore some of the amazing wildlife you can encounter on your summer visit to Shawnee National Forest.

1. Birdwatcher’s Paradise

Shawnee National Forest is a birdwatcher’s dream. In summer, the forest is alive with the songs of numerous bird species. You might spot:

  • Bald Eagles: These majestic birds are often seen soaring above the forest and near bodies of water.
  • Woodpeckers: Various species, including the Red-headed Woodpecker and the Pileated Woodpecker, can be seen and heard pecking away at tree trunks.
  • Warblers: These colorful, melodic birds are a delight to spot flitting through the trees.

2. Mammals on the Move

The forest is home to a variety of mammals, from the small and elusive to the large and impressive:

  • White-tailed Deer: Commonly seen grazing in meadows or darting through the woods.
  • Raccoons: These clever creatures are often spotted near campsites, especially around dusk.
  • Foxes: Both red and gray foxes roam the forest, though they can be quite shy.

3. Reptiles and Amphibians

Shawnee National Forest’s diverse habitats support a range of reptiles and amphibians:

  • Snakes: While exploring, you might come across non-venomous snakes like the Eastern Garter Snake or the Northern Watersnake.
  • Turtles: Painted Turtles and Snapping Turtles are often seen near ponds and rivers.
  • Frogs and Toads: The chorus of frogs and toads, including the American Bullfrog and the Eastern American Toad, adds to the forest’s symphony.

4. Insect Life Abounds

In summer, insects play a crucial role in the forest ecosystem:

  • Butterflies: The forest is teeming with butterflies such as the Monarch and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, flitting from flower to flower.
  • Dragonflies and Damselflies: These fascinating insects can be seen skimming the surfaces of lakes and streams.
  • Fireflies: As night falls, the magical glow of fireflies lights up the forest, creating an enchanting atmosphere.

5. Aquatic Life

The forest’s rivers, lakes, and streams are brimming with aquatic life:

  • Fish: Anglers can catch a variety of fish, including bass, catfish, and bluegill.
  • Crayfish: These small crustaceans are often found in streams and rivers, scuttling along the bottom.
  • Beavers: Look for beaver dams and lodges along waterways; you might even spot one of these industrious animals at work.

Tips for Wildlife Watching

  • Early Morning and Late Afternoon: Wildlife is most active during these times, making it the best time for sightings.
  • Quiet and Patience: Move slowly and quietly, and be patient. The forest’s inhabitants are more likely to reveal themselves when you are still.
  • Binoculars and Cameras: Bring binoculars for birdwatching and a camera to capture your encounters.
  • Stay on Trails: Stick to marked trails to protect both yourself and the wildlife.

Summer in Shawnee National Forest offers a vibrant tapestry of wildlife and natural beauty. Whether you’re a seasoned naturalist or a curious traveler, the forest provides countless opportunities to connect with nature and observe its wonders. So pack your gear, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to discover the amazing wildlife of Shawnee National Forest this summer!