Here are three ways we can find out what mammals live in Douglass Park:
- Some mammals, like squirrels, are out and about during the day. We can see them with our own eyes.
- Some mammals, like raccoons, are mostly active at night. Wildlife biologists can record them using special cameras, and then we can see the photos.
- Both day and night, mammals leave signs behind as they go about their routines. These signs include tracks and trails, tunnels, chew marks, and more. We can find the signs and figure out which mammals left them.
For instance, opossums are sometimes out during the day, but are more active at night. When they walk through snow or mud, opossums leave tracks and trails behind. So here are three ways we’ve recorded opossums in Douglass Park (clockwise from the upper left): A photo taken on a cold December morning; the trail left by that opossum as it waddled towards the cover of lagoon-side reeds; and a photo taken by the Lincoln Park Zoo’s wildlife camera in Douglass Park on a February night.
There are more photos of Douglass Park mammals lower on this page. But first, one more thing about opossums. Even thought their tails are naked and look like rat tails, opossums are marsupials, not rodents. That means opossums are more closely related to kangaroos and koala bears than to rats and mice.
Thanks to the Lincoln Park Zoo Urban Wildlife Institute for letting us use some of their wildlife camera photos! Here’s what their motion-sensitive wildlife cameras look like:
To learn more about monitoring urban wildlife in the Chicago area. check out this DNAinfo article.
And now, more Douglass park mammals:
Gray Squirrels are seen more often than any other mammal in Douglass Park (except during soccer games and concerts, when there are more humans in the park). Gray Squirrels can have orangish coloring mixed in with their gray fur, but their bellies are always white. Below are three photos of Gray Squirrels taken in Douglass Park, plus a photo of Gray Squirrel tracks in the snow and a Gray Squirrel-chewed seed pod (from a Kentucky Coffeetree).
There are also Fox Squirrels in Douglass Park, but they are much less common than Gray Squirrels. Fox Squirrels have a much more orangish cast to their fur, and their bellies are always orange.
Cottontail Rabbits are also common in the park, especially in the sanctuary. You usually see their white tails as they hop away from you, but sometimes Cottontails pose on the golf course turf. You can also look for Cottontail signs, like their distinctive tracks left as they hop across the snow, small trees they have chewed on for winter food, and their brown pea-sized droppings.
Raccoons are very rarely seen during the day in Douglass Park, and they are even shy around the park’s wildlife camera. In the photo below, you can tell that big ball of fleeing fur is a raccoon because it has dark rings on its bushy tail.
We have also found evidence of coyotes, voles, and other mammals in Douglass Park.