Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation

Conservation that connects

Looking beyond the expected to ensure a thriving natural world

DRIVING CHANGE

Projects

How coyotes adapt to living among us

Max McGraw had an insatiable curiosity about the natural world, and through the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation he tried to encourage that same curiosity and activism in others. As a result, McGraw is known worldwide as a leader in wildlife research and education. Much of its work has been done in cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies, which recognize the expertise of our scientists. In its early years, McGraw concentrated on the science of raising gamebirds in captivity, in hopes of sustaining huntable populations of pheasants, partridge, quail, and waterfowl. The groundbreaking techniques developed on the property still guide

Factors driving survival of white-tailed deer

White-tailed deer respond well to urbanization, and often become locally overabundant. At times, their numbers can cause ecological degradation to natural habitats and present a threat to human safety through collisions with vehicles. To manage deer populations, many agencies use mathematical models to make management decisions for local deer populations, but one critical component of those models — fawn survival — is often unknown. With the rise of coyotes within the Chicago region, it is possible that coyote predation may affect deer recruitment in urban preserves. We began monitoring fawns and adult deer in Cook County forest preserves in 2013

Economics and Impacts of Waterfowl Management

This project was a three-year effort to review and quantify the expenditure of U.S. taxpayer funds on wetland conservation in prairie Canada. Unprecedented in its scope and ambition, the review identified several ways to improve results reporting and communications in hopes of better informing stakeholders and decision makers of the program’s successes and challenges going forward. PDF Download

Where ideas and action meet. It’s just our nature.

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A rewarding cycle of food and fish

Almost from its beginnings as Max McGraw’s private weekend retreat, McGraw has raised freshwater game fish and released them into the Foundation’s lakes, providing an on-site laboratory into the healthy propagation of walleye, smallmouth and largemouth bass, muskies, pike, and other species. Over the years McGraw’s fisheries biologists have led or co-led dozens of studies on aquaculture, all designed to raise healthier fish effectively and efficiently. Their findings have benefited government-run fish hatcheries that stock public waters across the country, as well as commercial fish farmers who sell to restaurants and food distributors. And perhaps the biggest beneficiaries are McGraw’s

Economics and Impacts of Waterfowl Management

This project was a three-year effort to review and quantify the expenditure of U.S. taxpayer funds on wetland conservation in prairie Canada. Unprecedented in its scope and ambition, the review identified several ways to improve results reporting and communications in hopes of better informing stakeholders and decision makers of the program’s successes and challenges going forward.

READ THE SUMMARY (PDF)READ THE FULL REPORT (PDF)

Heartland Waters Initiative

The team on this longer-term project developed recommendations for efficient, sustained use of financial resources to improve land, water and wildlife outcomes in agriculture. Their work provided educational materials and information about federal agricultural policy as it pertained to the 2018 Food Security Act (Farm Bill). LEARN MORE READ THE REPORT (PDF)

The Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund

The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020 brought with it one of the most-desired outcomes in conservation history: Guaranteed full funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. A McGraw white paper on the fund helped kick-start the drive for full funding, and a 2020 update outlines how much remains to be done to make LWCF an example of well managed, efficient conservation funding and programming. LEARN MORE (PDF)

Drone Technology in Wildlife Research

McGraw is providing seed capital for Conservation Leadership is providing seed capital for an innovative program using drones and thermal imaging to locate duck nesting sites in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada. The technology holds huge potential for wildlife management in general and duck management in particular. WATCH A VIDEO

Coyote Ecology in the Chicago Metropolitan Area

This project began in March 2000, and is currently the longest and largest coyote study to date. Prior to the 1990s, coyotes were only occasionally sighted in the Chicago area, and were not a regular member of the urban fauna. As coyotes have increased in number and expanded their range across North America, they began colonizing urban centers such as Chicago.

Our objectives are to determine how coyotes achieve success in urban landscapes and the implications of this success for people and their pets. In addition to uncovering aspects of coyote ecology, we also focus on disease dynamics and the potential pathogens the animals host, and we seek solutions to human-coyote conflicts.

We are using the most recent technological advances to uncover the mysteries of these animals, such as satellite-monitored GPS collars for movements, stable isotope analysis for diet, serologic techniques to detect disease, and SNP’s and genomic sequencing for genetic analysis.

As the urban coyote population continues to increase in distribution and abundance within the city, we continue to monitor them to determine if there are changes in the behavior, physical condition, genetic structure and the prevalence of disease.

VISIT THE URBAN COYOTE PROJECT

White-tailed Deer Population Dynamics and Fawn Survival in Cook County Forest Preserves

White-tailed deer respond well to urbanization, and often become locally overabundant. At times, their numbers can cause ecological degradation to natural habitats and present a threat to human safety through collisions with vehicles. To manage deer populations, many agencies use mathematical models to make management decisions for local deer populations, but one critical component of those models — fawn survival — is often unknown. With the rise of coyotes within the Chicago region, it is possible that coyote predation may affect deer recruitment in urban preserves. We began monitoring fawns and adult deer in Cook County forest preserves in 2013 as part of a long-term project to estimate survival of fawns and identify the primary causes of mortality.

LEARN MORE (PDF)

Creating the Model Natural Resources Agency for Illinois

The mission of this report is to provide a vehicle of transformation for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, elevating the department to its rightful place of leadership, respect and trust in the eyes of the citizens of Illinois, the department’s professionals and the nation. READ THE REPORT (PDF) READ THE UPDATE (PDF)

Coastal Fisheries

This project assessed the economic impact of the recreational and commercial striped bass fisheries along the Atlantic Seaboard, in hopes of fostering better and more responsive management policies governing this historic, iconic fish. LEARN MORE (PDF)

Hispanic Hunters

This innovative look at the experiences of Hispanic hunters and their views on hunting was a cooperative effort with the National Shooting Sports Foundation and five state fish and wildlife agencies. We used highly selective case-study research to develop new methods of improving hunter recruitment among all demographic groups. LEARN MORE (PDF)

Reestablishing Bobwhite Quail

In 2017, the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership assembled a team of leading specialists to discuss the challenges of sustaining northern bobwhite quail in their traditional range of northern Illinois and to determine the viability of a trap-and-transfer program to boost populations in specific locations. Several critical themes were explored, including:

  • Likely causes for declines such as modifications in land use, changing agricultural practices, and increased, unpredictable fluctuations in severe weather events such as snowfall and ice storms
  • The need for greater background research to understand where and why current quail populations exist in northern Illinois
  • The genetic isolation among remaining populations and the potential degradation of genetic health from released, captive-reared birds It was agreed that trapping and transferring wild birds holds the greatest potential to fast-track the recovery of quail in a given area. By radio-tracking those birds, we would greatly improve our understanding of what limits or promotes quail survival.
Further steps were put on hold once it was determined that significant additional resources were needed to conduct the research in a cost-effective manner that would directly improve quail management and increase our understanding of quail ecology.

LEARN MORE (PDF)

Hunter Education

As part of its study of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, McGraw led the way in creating an online-only hunter safety course for Illinois. Yet an online-only course should be one of the larger, necessary changes in hunter education and must be part of an integrated reform plan that embraces existing and emerging technologies to achieve economic efficiencies and better serve the public. By making hunter education a cornerstone, we will ensure better recruitment and retention of future hunters and foster a culture of safe, ethical hunters.LEARN MORE (PDF)

Trapping Matters

Trapping Matters was an educational effort to ensure that professionals from federal and state wildlife agencies recognize the importance of trapping in conservation and wildlife management. The workshops taught the best management practices involving trapping and included communications training to foster understanding among the media and general public. LEARN MORE (PDF)

The McGraw Dove Symposium

The purpose of the McGraw Dove Symposium was to assemble a network of leading dove managers and hunters to address statewide population trends in Illinois and to share best practices for managing dove fields and dove hunting. After a series of erratic years in Northeastern Illinois, leaders of the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation convened the symposium in hopes of finding a better way forward. LEARN MORE (PDF)