Shawnee National Forest: 12 Wildlife Sightings While Camping!

If you’re a nature enthusiast looking for an adventurous camping trip, the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois is the perfect destination! This stunning forest boasts some of the most diverse wildlife in the state, from bald eagles and beavers to white-tailed deer and black bears. In this article, we’ll take you through 12 incredible wildlife sightings that you can expect to see while camping in the Shawnee National Forest. So get ready for some wild times!

White-tailed deer 

If you’re lucky, you may spot a white-tailed deer on your next camping trip to Shawnee National Forest. These timid creatures are most active at dawn and dusk, so keep your eyes peeled! Here are some tips for spotting a white-tailed deer in the wild:

– Look for signs of deer activity, such as fresh tracks or browsing marks on plants.

– Pay attention to areas with thick vegetation, as deer often use these areas for cover.

– Be patient and quiet while waiting for a glimpse of a deer. sudden movements or loud noises will startle them.

With a little luck, you’ll be able to see one of these beautiful animals up close!

Black bear

Black bears are the most common type of bear found in Shawnee National Forest. They are typically black in color, but their fur can range from light brown to almost white. Black bears are not aggressive and will usually only attack if they feel threatened. If you see a black bear while camping in Shawnee National Forest, do not approach it and keep your distance.

Black bears are omnivorous and feed on a variety of foods including nuts, berries, insects, and small mammals. In Shawnee National Forest, they also eat acorns from oak trees and carrion. They are generally solitary animals but may congregate in areas with abundant food sources. 

The best way to avoid conflicts with black bears is to properly store food and dispose of trash when camping in the forest. Make sure all food scraps are disposed of in bear-proof containers, hang food and backpacks away from sleeping areas, and never approach or corner a bear. If you spot a black bear while out in the forest, stay calm and back away slowly; do not try to run away or make sudden movements as this may trigger an attack.

Wild turkey

If you’re lucky, you might spot a wild turkey while camping in Shawnee National Forest! These birds are usually found in wooded areas, so keep your eyes peeled while hiking through the forest. If you do see a wild turkey, be sure to snap a picture – they’re beautiful creatures! 

If you’re looking for a surefire way to spot a wild turkey, try visiting the Shawnee National Forest during the spring and fall. These are prime migration times when the turkeys are on the move in search of new habitats. During these times, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to spot a wild turkey or two!


Beavers are one of the many animals that call Shawnee National Forest home. These large, semiaquatic rodents are known for their dam-building abilities and their flat tails. If you’re lucky, you may spot a beaver while camping in Shawnee National Forest!

Beavers are nocturnal creatures, so you’re more likely to see them at night. However, they may also be active during the day, especially in the early morning or late evening hours. Keep your eyes peeled for beavers while hiking, biking, or driving through Shawnee National Forest – you never know when you might see one!


The Shawnee National Forest is home to a variety of wildlife, including the bobcat. Bobcats are shy creatures and are most active at dawn and dusk. If you’re lucky enough to spot one while camping in the Shawnee National Forest, be sure to take a picture!

Bobcats can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, grasslands and wetlands. In the Shawnee National Forest, they are most likely to inhabit areas with dense vegetation such as cedar groves, hollows and brush piles. They tend to rest during the day and hunt at night.

Bobcats typically feed on small mammals such as rabbits and rodents, but they will also eat birds, reptiles and amphibians. They have also been known to scavenge carrion (dead animals).


Coyotes are often seen in Shawnee National Forest, and they can be a fascinating sight for visitors! These intelligent animals are known for their cunning scavenging abilities, and they often travel in packs. 

While they may look cute and harmless, it’s important to remember that they are wild animals and should not be approached. If you’re lucky enough to see a coyote while camping in Shawnee National Forest, take the opportunity to watch from a safe distance and appreciate these amazing creatures!

The US Forest Service also recommends that campers take preventative measures to avoid attracting coyotes, such as keeping food and garbage securely stored away. If you have any questions or concerns about wildlife in Shawnee National Forest, the Forest Service’s website is a great resource.

Bald eagles

While camping in Shawnee National forest, don’t be surprised if you see a bald eagle or two! The national forest is home to many different types of wildlife, and the bald eagles are just one of the many reasons why visitors love camping here.

Bald eagles are majestic creatures, and they’re often seen flying overhead or perched in trees near rivers and lakes. If you’re lucky enough to spot one while camping in Shawnee National Forest, be sure to take a photo!

Peregrine falcons

Peregrine falcons are one of the many wildlife species that can be found in Shawnee National Forest. These large birds of prey are known for their impressive hunting abilities, and they can often be seen perching on cliffs or trees near their nesting sites. 

Peregrine falcons typically mate for life, and they typically lay two to four eggs per year. Although peregrine falcons can be found throughout North America, Shawnee National Forest is one of the best places to see these majestic birds up close.

 In Shawnee National Forest, peregrine falcons can often be seen nesting on the bluffs and cliffs along the Ohio River. These birds also hunt over open areas such as fields and wetlands. In addition to these locations, peregrine falcons may also hunt over rivers and lakes in the area.

Peregrine falcons are an important part of Shawnee National Forest’s diverse wildlife. By protecting this species, we can ensure that these incredible birds of prey will continue to thrive in this unique ecosystem for years to come.

Red-cockaded woodpecker

The red-cockaded woodpecker is a small to medium-sized woodpecker that is found in the southeastern United States. The male has a red cap and black back, while the female has a brown cap and back. 

These birds are cavity nesters and require large, live trees for nesting and roosting. The red-cockaded woodpecker is listed as endangered due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

In Shawnee National Forest, visitors may be lucky enough to spot a red-cockaded woodpecker while camping or hiking. This forest is home to many different species of wildlife, including several threatened and endangered species.

 If you do see a red-cockaded woodpecker, please be sure to respect the bird’s space and do not disturb its habitat.

Eastern box turtle

The Eastern box turtle is a common sight in Shawnee National Forest. These turtles are often seen basking in the sun on logs or rocks, or crawling around in the leaf litter in search of food. If you’re lucky, you may even see one laying eggs in a sunny spot! 

The Eastern box turtle is an important part of the ecosystem in Shawnee National Forest. These turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. They eat a variety of insects, berries, and other small animals such as frogs or worms. The Eastern box turtle also helps to control insect populations by eating them.

These turtles play an important role in maintaining the natural balance within their habitat. They help spread seeds from the fruits they eat, and their digging helps aerate the soil and break down organic matter. They also provide food for predators like hawks, raccoons, and skunks.

Eastern box turtles are threatened by habitat destruction due to logging, road building, and urban development. As humans encroach on their habitats it becomes more difficult for these turtles to find food and suitable nesting grounds. If you visit Shawnee National Forest make sure to keep your eyes open for one of these fascinating creatures!

The endangered Indiana bat

The endangered Indiana bat is found in Shawnee National Forest. This species was listed as endangered in 1967 and is protected under the Endangered Species Act. The Indiana bat is a small, brownish-gray bat with a wingspan of 9 to 11 inches. 

It has long, narrow wings that allow it to fly long distances and navigate through trees. The Indiana bat hibernates in caves during the winter and can live up to 20 years. Females give birth to one or two pups each year.

The Indiana bat is found in hardwood forests with abundant dead trees for roosting and feeding. In Shawnee National Forest, it can be found in the western and northern portions of the forest. The bats rely on specific habitat conditions to survive, including caves or other sheltered areas for hibernation and tall trees with loose bark for roosting and feeding. 

In order to protect the Indiana bat, Shawnee National Forest has closed some caves to human access during winter months, when the Indiana bat is hibernating. Additionally, they have implemented a prescribed fire program to help restore suitable habitat for the bats by creating more dead trees.

Eastern gray treefrog

The Eastern gray treefrog is one of the most commonly seen frogs in Shawnee National Forest. These small amphibians are typically green or gray in color, with darker spots on their backs. They are often heard before they are seen, as they make a distinctive croaking sound. Eastern gray treefrogs can be found near ponds, streams, and other bodies of water, where they live and breed.

Eastern gray treefrogs are highly adaptive and opportunistic, often living in close proximity to humans. They can be found in a variety of habitats, from woodlands and forests to backyards and even urban areas. During the warmer months of the year, these frogs can often be spotted near bodies of water in Shawnee National Forest.

Eastern gray treefrogs feed mostly on small insects such as mosquitoes, moths, and midges. They typically hunt for their prey near ponds or streams at night. During the day they hide amongst vegetation or take refuge in small crevices or holes. In late summer and early fall, these frogs will begin to mate and lay eggs in temporary pools of water. After hatching, the tadpoles will eventually metamorphose into adult Eastern gray treefrogs. 

The Eastern gray treefrog is an important species in Shawnee National Forest’s ecosystem, providing food for many predators such as snakes, birds, and larger amphibians like bullfrogs. In turn, it also helps keep insect populations under control. The Eastern gray treefrog is also an important indicator species; its presence is a sign that the environment is healthy enough to support amphibian life. 


It’s clear to see why many visitors flock to Shawnee National Forest each year. From the breathtaking views of its cliffs and valleys, to the abundance of wildlife available for viewing, it’s an outdoor paradise unlike any other! Whether you’re a nature beginner or expert camper, make sure your next trip includes stopping by this incredible park. Who knows what kind of amazing wildlife sightings await you there?

2 thoughts on “Shawnee National Forest: 12 Wildlife Sightings While Camping!”

  1. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, there are no bears in the Shawnee National Forest. It is possible to see bears passing through Illinois, however. The last bear sighting was a bear sighted in Monroe County that then traveled through Clinton, Washington, and Franklin counties.

    1. Hey Raymond, Thanks for your comment!

      Well, we did see one just east of the Lusk creek area. They are very rare. Actually, this was the second time in the last decade we’ve seen them. One time was on the Glen falls road. I agree however, of late its been very hard spotting bears here.

      Thanks for keeping us in check. Really appreciate it 🙂

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