There is an abundance of wildlife that depends on the Chicago River for shelter, food, and reproduction. As the quality of both the water and riverside habitat improve, we can expect to see even more animals nearby. When you walk along the river, keep your eyes peeled! We've spotted wildlife in all places along the river, from the bustling downtown section to the more remote headwaters and everywhere in between. 

Email your wildlife questions, stories, or images to wildlife@chicagoriver.org

Click the following animal groups to jump to a particular topic:

Reptiles and Amphibians



The University of Illinois Extension has a complete guide to the mammals of Illinois, most of which can be seen along the river. Click here to view, and check out some of highlighted mammals below (click each mammal for more information). 

 American mink  (Neovision vision)

 Beaver  (Castor canadensis)

Coyote (Canis latrans)

 Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

 River otter (Lontra canadensis)

 White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)



The Forest Preserves of Cook County has a checklist of the almost 300 birds found throughout the preserves, most of which can be spotted along the Chicago River. Click here to view, and check out some of the highlighted birds below (click each bird for more information). 

 Belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

 Double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

 Great blue heron (Ardea herodius)

 Mallard duck (Anas platyrynhcos)

 Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)


Reptiles and Amphibians

The Field Museum of Natural History has published a set of rapid field guides for Chicago-area flora and fauna, including a compilation of reptiles and amphibians.

Click here for "Common Frogs and Toads of the Chicago Region" and here for "Reptiles and Amphibians of the Calumet Region" and check out some of the highlighted herpetofauna below (click each animal for more info).

American toad (Bufo americanus)

Blue-spotted salamander (Ambystoma laterale)

Garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

Northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens)

Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)

 Snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)


Macroinvertebrates are animals without a backbone that are large enough to see with the naked eye. In the river, they include animals from such varied groups as insects, crustaceans, and molluscs. As well as comprising an important part of the aquatic food web, macroinvertebrates are also key bioindicators of water quality. Check out the links and the highlighted macros below for more information. 

Click here for a guide to the macroinvertebrates of the Chicago River

Click here for a macroinvertebrate identification key, prepared by Illinois RiverWatch

Click here for "A Field Guide to the Freshwater Mussels of the Chicago Region," prepared by Chicago Wilderness. 


 Cranefly larva 

 Dobsonfly larva


 Damselfly larva