Brief news from Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin | Iowa-Illinois-Wisconsin
SIU researcher studies coyotes and bobcats in Illinois
CARBONDALE, Illinois – A researcher at Southern Illinois University follows coyotes and bobcats to understand the habitats they seek and how they affect them.
Nicole Gorman is a graduate student in zoology and a research assistant at the SIU Wildlife Research Laboratory in Carbondale. She studies the movements of bobcats and coyotes in central and southern Illinois. These medium-sized predators dominate North America and understanding their impact is critical, she said.
“Studying the movement of predators in particular can provide scientists with more details about their behavior and how they might interact with their environment and the other species around them,” Gorman said. “This understanding can lead to effective management of wildlife, for the benefit of predator and prey species.”
Since early November 2019, Gorman has captured and tagged 33 of the animals at sites near Makanda and Lake Shelbyville. She says she traps them safely with foot or cage traps and equips them with GPS transmitters to track them.
She studies the incoming data to determine which habitats they like and which they avoid. She also reviews their interaction with deer as part of a white-tailed deer movement project sponsored by the US Wildlife Restoration Fund and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
She found that coyotes and bobcats in heavily forested southern Illinois don’t need to travel far to support themselves, but in more agricultural central Illinois their range may exceed 200 square miles.
Gorman hopes to complete the project in December. She is aiming for a doctorate and hopes to become a wildlife biologist for the federal government.
Wisconsin wildlife officials worried about sick birds
MILWAUKEE – Wisconsin wildlife officials are asking people to be on the lookout for sick birds.
The Sentinel Journal reports that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources made the request after seeing signs of diseases that have affected birds in the eastern United States since May.
That month, wildlife managers in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky began receiving reports of sick and dying birds with swollen eyes and crusty discharge.
The DNR has received “a few scattered reports” of birds with puffy, crusty eyes. The disease affecting birds in the east has yet to be identified by scientists or linked to bird deaths seen in Wisconsin since June.
It is not known whether the disease is transmitted from bird to bird.
Juvenile or nascent blue jays, blackbirds, European starlings and American robins have been the species primarily associated with this mysterious disease.
Suicide suspected in the death of an inmate
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – An inmate died in prison a day after agreeing to plead guilty to child pornography charges.
The Linn County Sheriff’s Office said Travis Jon Fulton, of Parkersburg, was found unconscious in his cell around 4 a.m. on Saturday. He was taken to hospital where he died. Investigators believe the 44-year-old committed suicide.
In February, Fulton was charged in federal court with the sexual exploitation of a child, possession of child pornography and receiving child pornography.
The attorney representing Fulton, who was a local mixed martial arts fighter, had just filed documents in court on Friday claiming Fulton intended to plead guilty to child sexual exploitation and possession of child pornography , according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Earlier in the week, a judge dismissed Fulton’s efforts to challenge a search warrant that allowed investigators to find child pornography images on electronic devices belonging to Fulton.
Fulton was due in court to change his plea later this month.
At the time of his death, Fulton was also facing state charges in Black Hawk County, where he was accused of repeatedly hitting a woman on the head and threatening to kill her in Waterloo in September 2019.
Route 66 exhibit opens with Illinois State Fair
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Visitors to this year’s Illinois State Fair will be able to visit one of the country’s most historic highways with the creation of the Route 66 Experience.
The multi-year project will transform Gate 2 of the Springfield Fairgrounds into a year-round destination to tour a microform of Mother Road in Illinois, from Chicago to the Chain of Rocks Bridge over the Mississippi River in Madison. It will highlight the communities and attractions along the way.
Project sponsor the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway will have completed the first phase by the state fair opens on Aug. 12, said executive director Casey Wichmann.
“Being able to provide visitors with a central location to experience what our historic route has to offer is an incredible opportunity ahead of Route 66’s 100th anniversary,” said Wichmann.
The 2,448-mile highway, one of the country’s first interstate “hard roads”, was opened 95 years ago. It was nicknamed the “Mother Road” by John Steinbeck in his novel “The Grapes of Wrath”. It stretches from Chicago’s Loop business district to Santa Monica, California. Its route through Illinois is similar to that of present-day Interstate 55.
Once underway, the exhibit will feature quick response codes and storyboards detailing historic attractions and businesses. Communities along Route 66 will be invited to participate by working with the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway to develop their areas.
The project will be completed before the centenary in 2026.