The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has generously “loaned” one of its Huntmaster blinds to the state’s endangered species program. While it may sound strange for the conservation program to make use of a hunting blind, no hunting is being planned. Instead, the blind will be adapted so it can serve as a home for a group of osprey chicks recently received by the DNR.
According to the Peoria Journal Star, the DNR’s original plan was to build a permanent structure to house the young birds until they are ready to take flight, but the construction site was unexpectedly flooded.
“Our hack site was 14 feet underwater and is still underwater,” said program manager Joe Kath, “We couldn’t get heavy equipment back there, so we had to revert to an alternative plan.”
Ospreys can be found worldwide but are endangered in Illinois. The species had been absent in the state for a long period of time until a recent restoration program endeavored to bring the birds back. Five precious osprey chicks were flown in from West Virginia, the first birds to enter the state in what is expected to be an eight-year program. Eventually officials hope to release around 50 of the birds back into Illinois. Feeding the fish will be an easy task with the large amount of Asian carp brought in during carp control sweeps, when the fish are shocked and stored in a freezer.
Finding adequate real estate, however, was difficult at first. The hunting blind provided just what the biologists needed.
“We needed something that can raise 15-20 feet in the air, and it needs to be safe because people will be working there,” Kath said, describing the conditions needed to raise the chicks during the “hacking,” the period before the birds become experienced fliers. “They just said, ‘return it in the condition you got it.'”
It was an ideal solution since the blinds would not be in use until fall, by which time the chicks can return to a more stable environment at their regular hack site.
“For a last-minute alternative, it will work,” Kath said. “It will do the job.”