We all love spending time in Lincoln Park and around North Pond, but we often forget that there is a right and a wrong way to interact with the species that live there. There are a number of rules and they all exist for very important reasons. Let’s take a closer look at each of them and learn why they’re so important.
Don’t Release Pets into the Wild
Goldfish and other brightly colored freshwater fish are one of the most common household pets in the US. Goldfish are prolific reproducers, happy to eat whatever they can find, and can grow to be nearly half a foot in length. These unassuming pets can become major complications if introduced to a delicate ecosystem, like North Pond.
If you find yourself unable to care for fish, there are lots of options! Releasing them into the wild is not one of them. Many independent Chicago area pet stores will take freshwater fish as donations. Retirement communities, offices, and even some schools may also take-in former pets. Local aquarium clubs can also aid in re-homing freshwater fish. Keeping wild animals wild and domesticated animals safe is simple, especially when reaching out to the community, and not to an ecosystem.
A common sight around the North Pond area are the several species of turtles that regularly sun themselves on the banks of the water. Red-eared sliders and painted turtles are abundant in the area, and, unfortunately, a number of these now wild turtles were dumped pets or the descendants of abandoned pets that compete for the same resources as their wild neighbors.
Turtles that are not born in the wild don’t have the same skill set as their wild counterparts and because of this shouldn’t be dropped off in an unknown environment. Former pets don’t have the hunting, hiding, and hibernating skills necessary for them to survive. The Nature Museum cannot house former pets and cannot care for those in North Pond. Pet turtles are a decades-long commitment and if you find yourself unable to care for it simply alert the Herpetological Society of Illinois! They are experts in re-homing reptiles and an excellent resource for reptile pet owners.
Additionally if you are enjoying the diverse wildlife around North Pond and come across a box turtle, identified by their high domed shell, spotted skin, and clawed toes, alert a wildlife rehabilitation center. Box turtles are native to Illinois but threatened, and a box turtle in Lincoln Park is very likely an abandoned pet. Contact Willowbrook Wildlife Center or the Nature Museum for assistance in identifying a box turtle and finding a safe place for it.
Avoid Feeding the Wildlife
Spending a sunny afternoon feeding wildlife like ducks, geese, pigeons or squirrels around North Pond may sound relaxing, but it can wreak havoc on this unique urban ecosystem.
Simply put, wild animals did not evolve to depend on humans for food or to digest bread, crackers, or other processed snacks. Feeding wildlife disrupts their digestive systems and their daily habits. For example, geese that digest bread or other human food can become sick, eventually resulting in their death. While bird seed, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn can be safer options, animals that are fed by humans can come to depend on them and even become aggressive when they come to expect that food. Also, animals that are fed from cars or even around traffic may see all cars as potential food sources which can result in animal and human collisions.
Report Injured Wildlife
If you find a turtle that appears injured or unwell please do not attempt to pick it up – you may injure yourself or the animal. Instead, check out this map that can help you find rehabilitators near you who have permits from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to care for wildlife. Or, if you find an injured bird in the Chicago area, you can call Chicago Bird Collision Monitors.
Lend a Hand
To ensure North Pond and its animal inhabitants stay safe and contribute to the balance of this ecosystem, simply observe our animal neighbors and get involved in restoring and maintaining North Pond. Click here to learn more. Or, if you’re interested in supporting wildlife in the area, become a Calling Frog Survey volunteer.