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Badgers, Bears And Bobcats In Chicago? Return Could Happen, Scientists Say

By Justin Breen | September 21, 2016 6:02am | Updated on September 23, 2016 10:30am
 Animals like the bald eagle, black bear, bobcat and badger are returning to Chicago and its surroundings.
Animals like the bald eagle, black bear, bobcat and badger are returning to Chicago and its surroundings.
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CHICAGO — Robb Telfer is hoping for the day wild black bears, badgers and bobcats return to Chicago.

Those predators are creeping closer to the city limits, just as other large mammals like foxes and coyotes are already here. So are birds like bald eagles and ospreys.

Telfer, the Calumet Outreach Coordinator at Field Museum, started a lengthy list he dubbed the "De-Extinction Counter" that points out long-lost animals that may soon return to Chicago. The museum runs a daily running counter that shows the amount of species worldwide that have become extinct since 8 a.m. of any given day.

Telfer said his list provides "hope" that animals can return and possibly thrive in Chicago.

"And when you collect all these stories you have an impressive anthology of successes, a big honking club of victories that you can wield to beat back the apocalypse," Telfer said.

Badgers — aggressive, elusive stripe-faced mammals — have been tracked by Cook County biologists this year. Black bears have been seen in Northwest Indiana late last year. Bobcats have expanded into every county in the state.

None of these predators are in Chicago yet, but Seth Magle, director of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute, said city residents and officials should be prepared for their arrival — similar to when a mountain lion made its way here before it was fatally shot.

"Species like bobcats, badgers and bears may never be able to fully adapt to living in cities as they tend to require large tracts of habitat," Magle said. "But it’s certainly possible they may wander in during a migration event, as mountain lions have in the past. We would be wise to plan for what we’ll do if and when they appear."

Bald eagles, which hadn't been seen in the city since the early 1900s, have already appeared in Chicago this year. Several experts claim they've possibly spotted an extremely rare river otter in the Chicago River this year.

Telfer said everyone can contribute to making Chicago as wild a habitat as possible.

"I think the best thing people can do is just find a local natural area and try to become a little more acquainted with it," he said. "Find ways to fall in love with that place and you're way more likely to organically help that place when problems arise."

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