- Illinois has 9 official state animals, including the Eastern Milksnake, Eastern Tiger Salamander, White-Tailed Deer, Bluegill, Monarch Butterfly, Shelter Dogs and Cats, Painted Turtle, Northern Cardinal, and Tully Monster.
- Shelter cats and dogs are the official state pet of Illinois, and residents are encouraged to adopt animals.
- The Northern Cardinal is the official state bird of Illinois and can be seen year-round in open woodlands, parks, gardens, and residential areas.
Illinois is located in the Midwestern United States and borders Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, and Indiana. It became a state on December 3rd of 1818 as the 21st state to join the union. Illinois is known for its vast lakefront shoreline along Lake Michigan and its winding rivers like the Mississippi River. The capital city of Illinois is Springfield, while Chicago serves as its largest city. Illinois loves nature and has many official state animals. Let’s go over them all below!
1. Eastern Milksnake
The eastern milksnake, Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum, is a species of milk snake native to the eastern United States. They can grow up to nearly 4 feet in length and have a distinctive pattern of reddish-brown, black, and yellow bands along their bodies. These snakes are non-venomous and typically nocturnal or crepuscular animals that feed on small rodents such as mice and voles. In Illinois, they can be found in wooded areas near rivers or streams but are rarely seen due to their shy nature. The Eastern Milksnake is an important predator for controlling rodent populations which makes it an essential part of the local ecosystem.
2. Eastern Tiger Salamander
The Eastern Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum, is the official state amphibian of Illinois. It is a large species of salamander with distinctive tiger-like stripes running down its back, for which it takes its name. This species can reach lengths up to 8 inches and has blueish or brownish skin with yellow spots. They typically inhabit shallow ponds or marshes in the eastern half of North America but are also found in some wetland areas in Illinois.
The Eastern Tiger Salamander feeds on small insects such as worms, snails, and crickets, as well as frogs and other small animals that venture too close to their aquatic habitat. Reproduction among this species occurs during early spring when adults migrate from their overwintering sites to breeding pools located nearby, where they up to one hundred eggs at once before returning to their aquatic habitats afterward. Conservation efforts have been successful so far, and the species continues to thrive in its natural environment across many parts of North America, including Illinois.
3. White-Tailed Deer
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is the official state animal of Illinois, and they can be found throughout the state. These animals typically live in wooded areas where there is plenty of vegetation to eat and places to hide from predators. They have reddish-brown coats in summer that turn grayish during winter months, fluffy white tails with a black tip, and large ears that allow them to pick up on any potential threats nearby.
White-tailed deer mostly feed on grasses, herbs, twigs, tree bark, nuts, and fruits in their natural habitat but will also consume crops like corn or alfalfa when given access. Because of this tendency for crop-raiding behavior combined with high population densities within parts of Illinois’ range means that managing these animals can be difficult for farmers as well as wildlife conservationists alike.
The bluegill fish, Lepomis macrochirus, is the official state fish of Illinois. This species of sunfish can be found in many freshwater lakes throughout the state and is a popular gamefish due to its size, abundance, and taste when cooked. The average length of adult bluegill is 5-10 inches, but they can reach lengths up to 12 inches or more.
Bluegills are easily identifiable by their dark olive green coloration with yellowish hues on the sides that extend into an iridescent blue or purple finish near the tail fin. They typically feed on insects and smaller aquatic organisms such as crustaceans and other small invertebrates. Many anglers consider them one of the best-tasting freshwater fishes due to their delicate texture and mild flavor profile.
5. Monarch Butterfly
The monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, is the official state insect of Illinois. It is a large orange and black butterfly that migrates between Mexico and Canada each year. In Illinois specifically, you can find monarchs from late May to early October, depending on the weather conditions. They usually feed on milkweed plants such as Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) or Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed). During its lifetime, a single female monarch can lay up to 400 eggs! Monarchs can be found in many habitats throughout Illinois, including prairies, wetlands, forests, meadows, and gardens, where they live until migration season begins again.
6. Shelter Dogs and Cats
Shelter cats and dogs are the official state pet of Illinois, and residents are encouraged to adopt animals. The law, which became effective on August 25th, 2017, and was sponsored by Representative Sue Scherer from the 96th district in Illinois, officially recognized shelter dogs and cats as the state pet of Illinois. This designation honors the many animals that are rescued each year from shelters and rescue facilities throughout the state. In addition to adding these beloved four-legged friends to its list of official symbols, it also highlights an important issue facing animal lovers today – finding forever homes for homeless pets. Supporters believe that this new recognition will help bring attention to pet adoptions in Illinois and encourage more residents to consider adopting a pet when they’re ready for one.
7. Painted Turtle
The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is the official state reptile of Illinois and can be found throughout the state. It is a semi-aquatic turtle, spending much of its time in shallow ponds, lakes, marshes, and streams. The painted turtle gets its name from its colorful markings – they have black or brown shells with red stripes along their necks and legs.
Painted turtles are omnivores. They eat both plants and animals, such as insects, worms, snails, fish eggs, tadpoles, frogs, and crayfish, for food. In winter months, when water temperatures become too cold for activity levels to remain high enough to survive, hibernation will occur. During this period, turtles will bury themselves in the mud at the bottom of bodies of water until spring arrives again.
These reptiles can live up to 50 years in captivity but typically only reach an age between 20-30 years old in the wild due to predation from larger predators like foxes or raccoons as well as environmental pressures like pollution or habitat destruction which reduce available resources needed for survival.
8. Northern Cardinal
The northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is the official state bird of Illinois, a designation that has been in place since 1929. It is a medium-sized songbird found throughout much of North America and is easily identified by its bright red plumage. Cardinals are omnivorous, eating both seeds and insects. They prefer to feed on the ground or from low shrubs but will also take food directly from bird feeders. In Illinois, they can be seen year-round in open woodlands, parks, gardens, and residential areas.
Breeding season begins as early as February, with most males establishing territories by April. The female builds an open cup nest on branches near the trunk of trees or under eaves of buildings, where she lays two to five eggs which hatch after 10-14 days, depending on temperature conditions during the incubation period. Cardinals usually raise two broods per season, with fledglings leaving their nests approximately 12-14 days after hatching.
9. Tully Monster
The Tully Monster (Tullimonstrum gregarium) is an extinct marine creature that was designated as the official state fossil of Illinois in 1989. The species was first discovered by Francis Tully in 1958, and its fossils are exclusively found within the Mazon Creek Formation of Northern Illinois. Its odd characteristics have caused it to remain an enigma for many years, with some scientists even proposing that it may not be a vertebrate at all.
The Tully Monster has been described as having a long, slender body with two eyes on stalks and a proboscis-like structure that contained tooth-like structures. It also had two lobes extending from either side of its head that was used for swimming or grasping prey items. Today, the best-preserved specimens can be found at the Field Museum in Chicago, where they are carefully studied to learn more about this mysterious prehistoric organism.
Summary of the 9 Official State Animals of Illinois
|1||Official State Snake||Eastern Milksnake|
|2||Official State Amphibian||Eastern Tiger Salamander|
|3||Official State Animal||White-Tailed Deer|
|4||Official State Fish||Bluegill|
|5||Official State Insect||Monarch Butterfly|
|6||Official State Pets||Shelter Dogs and Cats|
|7||Official State Reptile||Painted Turtle|
|8||Official State Bird||Northern Cardinal|
|9||Official State Fossil||Tully Monster|
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