We see squirrels every day in cities across Illinois, but squirrels didn’t always live in urban areas in such abundance.
If you’ve spent time on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign-Urbana, you’ve likely noticed the squirrels… and their odd behavior. According to mammalian ecologist Ed Heske, they live on campus because in the early 1900’s, the UI allotted $125 dollars to introduce squirrels to campus to enhance interaction between its students and the natural world.
The idea that urban squirrels would be good for people living in cities, however, wasn’t unique to the University of Illinois; it was part of a much larger movement that swept the US starting on the East coast in the early 19th century. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Heske and Assistant Professor of History at Pennsylvania University Etienne Benson about how squirrels became so visible in our lives and how our attitudes toward them have changed drastically in the last 100 years.
Have you had an encounter with a squirrel? Do they brighten your day or terrorize your yard? Tell us about it in the comments section below!
Chronic wasting disease was first discovered in deer in the Rocky Mountains in the 1960’s. Since then, its spread to the Midwest, Canada and a few eastern states, and there has been ongoing debate about the best ways to keep the disease from infecting more deer. CWD, which is 100% fatal and incurable in deer populations and has been in Illinois for the past decade. According to new research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the state is doing something right when it comes to managing the disease. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, a wildlife veterinary epidemiologist for the Illinois Natural History Survey, and Jan Novakofski, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and a Professor of Animal Science, about the disease, how it affects deer and why we should be concerned with keeping it from spreading. We’ll also talk about managing diseases that have epidemic potential in wildlife populations.
Bats are notorious in popular culture, but they play a vital role in our eco-system. Of the more than 1,000 species that exist worldwide, 13 can be found in Illinois, and six of those species are now being threatened by white nose syndrome, a poorly understood disease that's responsible for mass die offs of hundreds of thousands of bats nationwide. During this episode of Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Ed Heske, a mammalian ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, a part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, about bats, why they’re important and why white nose syndrome is so scary, especially for farmers.