Biologist helps Barrington residents, wildlife coexist
Chris Anchor, a Cook County Forest Preserve wildlife biologist speaks Jan. 26 during a program presented by the Citizens for Conservation at the Barrington Area Library. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 15, 2013 9:46AM
BARRINGTON — Many people move to Barrington in part because of the open land the area offers.
These open areas, however, also attract wildlife like skunks, opossums, bats, raccoons and groundhogs.
“Now, we’re getting to breeding season, when animals become territorial,” warned Chris Anchor, chief biologist for the Cook County Forest Preserve.
Anchor has been leading seminars on wildlife control in the Barrington area for nearly a decade.
“We were looking at issues with wildlife in people’s backyards,” Anchor said. “Most people want to know how to keep animals away.”
Anchor said residents should not try and get close to these animals if they enter a yard.
“One of the biggest issues I see is feeding,” Anchor said. “The problem is when people try to feed them or try to provide shelter to them.”
For the most part, however, Anchor noted that most people would rather keep animals like skunks and opossums away.
“With bats and skunks, you’re always worried about rabies,” Anchor said.
Although some of these animals can carry diseases, Anchor pointed out that some of them can also offer favorable attributes. For example, Anchor said, skunks can eat plant items that otherwise might attract harmful Japanese beetles.
Meredith Tucker, president of Barrington’s Citizens for Conservation group, has attended many of Anchor’s presentations, including a recent event at the Barrington Area Public Library.
“He has a very objective view of wildlife,” said Tucker. “We thought this was a subject of great interest in the Barrington area. These animals have a place in our ecosystem whether we like it or not.”
At many of his presentations, Anchor brings pelts of animals like coyotes and raccoons so area residents can better identify local wildlife.
As a way of keeping track of potentially harmful animals, Anchor said the forest preserve has a radio-tagging program in which forest preserve biologists affix GPS devices to animals in order to track them. Anchor explained that they attach these devices through collaring, by surgically implanting them or other means, depending on the animal.
“We make sure that any animal we tag will be able to continue to function and move normally in the wild,” he said. “We’re looking at things like home range, longevity, food habits and interactions with other animals and people.”
Anchor said forest preserve biologists are able to use this method to track any places that animals might congregate. That could, in turn, be a place where diseases are more easily transmitted. Also, he said, the forest preserve can use the GPS tags to determine if an animal is deceased through a lack of movement on the device.
Anchor reported that there are about 700 active transmitters in the area.
“We add to general public knowledge about the animals we share a landscape with,” said Anchor. “We can also learn about animal behavior in an urban context, which helps humans better coexist with wild animals.