Top 15 Mammals Photographed by UWI’s Biodiversity Monitoring Project 

April 30, 2024

Of the images taken by the Urban Wildlife Institute’s motion-sensor cameras, here are the most common ones seen in the Chicago area.

1. Squirrels

This comes as no surprise. Squirrels are ubiquitous around the world, appearing in 1 million Urban Wildlife Information Network images from motion-triggered cameras.

2. Dogs

Well, UWI is sampling parks, golf courses, cemeteries, and forest preserves, after all. Given the proximity of these environments to human homes and businesses, this isn’t strange at all.

3. Deer

Different deer species are common in cities; in Illinois, white-tailed deer are the only native deer species and the state mammal.

deer and fawn camerat trap image

4. Raccoons

According to UWI Assistant Director Liza Lehrer, raccoons are one of the most successful animals in urban areas. In fact, she says, finding out information on why they choose particular spaces is difficult because “they can just do well in every different kind of space in a city.”

5. Opossums

Opossums are the only marsupial species in North America. They are scavengers, which may help them survive in urban environments.

 6. Rabbits 

Rabbits’ digging activities can help maintain soil and they are an important part of the food web. However, they may be considered cute pests by urban gardeners, as they damage plots and backyard landscapes by chewing on plants and bark.

7. Coyotes

When it comes to mitigating human-wildlife conflict in cities like Chicago, coyotes are often involved. UWI often studies coyotes, as they are urban carnivores that can have their behavior changed by mange, which is caused by parasitic mites.

coyote camera trap image

8. Cats

Many cities have large populations of feral and stray cats, and they can be problematic in terms of spreading diseases and preying on wildlife.

9. Mice

Mice are extremely widespread in urban environments and they seem to thrive in many cities, especially inside people’s homes.

10. Skunks

You may not see skunks that often because they are nocturnal, but they do thrive in urban areas due to their adaptable nature.

11. Rats

According to pest control company Orkin, Chicago is the “rattiest city” in the U.S. While UWI researchers might argue the situation is a bit more complex than presented, there is a definite rat problem not only in this city, but many others around the world.

12. Red foxes

A family of red foxes set up residence in Chicago’s Millennium Park last year, causing much excitement. UWI partnered with Lurie Garden officials to close off off their living area and monitor their activities.

13. Minks

“We see mink on the cameras not extremely often, but fairly often, which is exciting,” UWI Senior Director Seth Magle says, noting that they are not often considered a species that does well in urban areas. However, although they are more common in the suburbs, UWI sees them in city ponds as well!

mink camera trap imag

14. Beavers

Beavers are unique in their ability to transform the environment around them—only humans do it better. It may be surprising, but they too make the list of animals that thrive in cities. They’ve been seen at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Nature Boardwalk!

15. Muskrat

These semiaquatic rodents are common around waterways, such as the Chicago River, and live in every county in Illinois.

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