Robert D. “Bob” Bluett, 63, of Athens, IL, a wildlife biologist whose booming laugh shattered the quietness of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ building for decades, passed away surrounded by his family at home on Sundy, November 5, 2023. Bob was an avid outdoorsman and fisherman, a strong advocate for scientific wildlife management, and a devoted husband, father, and grandfather.
Bob was born December 8, 1959 in Des Plaines, Illinois to Robert J. and Verena R. (Willich) Bluett. Inspired and intrigued by his observations and experiences in the outdoors as a youngster, Bob aimed to become a wildlife biologist so that he could contribute to the conservation, management and restoration of natural resources. He completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Ripon College and a Master’s Degree in Wildlife Management at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, and worked at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute (Kingsville, TX) before joining the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Division of Wildlife in 1989.
A friend from work introduced Bob to the love of his life, Tammy M. Carey, at an IDNR-sponsored event where Bob was releasing wild river otters from Louisiana into their new home in the Kaskaskia River watershed. They were married in 1995 and had one son, Robert T. “Robbie” Bluett, who has always been a source of pride and joy in their lives.
Bob was a Wildlife Biologist certified by The Wildlife Society (TWS) and remained active in TWS throughout his life, including serving as State Chapter President. His career with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) spanned 28 years. Bob was in charge of the Furbearer/Wildlife Diversity Program, where he planned and implemented projects to restore wildlife populations that had become depleted; set rules to regulate the sustainable hunting and trapping of furbearers; and oversaw Illinois’ nuisance wildlife control program, the DNR trapper education program, and numerous research studies. He worked extensively with fellow biologists, researchers, landowners, and other interested persons, and credited all these collaborations for the successes that were achieved. One of his proudest accomplishments was the restoration of eastern woodrat and river otter populations to their historic range in Illinois, which required trapping animals in other parts of the country and relocating them to suitable habitat in our state. He was also involved with restoration and monitoring of a variety of nongame species, including the alligator snapping turtle, rice rat, golden mouse, osprey, and Illinois chorus frog. During his tenure, Illinois river otter and bobcat populations increased to the point that they could sustain regulated harvest, and hunting/trapping seasons were opened. He was also the author/co-author of more than 25 peer-reviewed research articles.
At work or play Bob was happiest when he was outdoors, whether standing waist deep in the Wabash River setting hoop nets to conduct turtle surveys, trapping wood rats in Arkansas for transport to their new home in southern Illinois, or conducting any of a myriad of wildlife surveys to track animal population trends. His main hobbies were hunting and fishing, especially bank poling for catfish on the Sangamon River. Bob was known to say exactly what was on his mind; you didn’t ask for his viewpoint unless you were willing to hear the completely uncensored response. His opinions about “bean counters” (i.e., anyone who slowed his ability to take action because of administrative issues) are well known to anyone that worked with him. But most of all, he will be remembered as a man of action – he believed that sound research and planning were necessary for success, but natural resources did not benefit unless management practices were implemented by boots on the ground. It is that conservation philosophy that truly separated Bob from the rest.
Bob is survived by his wife Tammy Bluett of Athens, son Robert T. (Cheyenne) Bluett, granddaughter Lylah Louise Bluett, sisters Deborah Bluett and Mary Lee Barry, and brothers Jerry Bluett and Jeff Bluett.
A Celebration of Life will be on Friday, December 8, 2023 from 4:00 until 7:00 PM at Riverbank Lodge in Petersburg.
Memorial contributions can be made to St. Judes Children’s Hospital. Mott and Henning Funeral Home (Athens, IL) is assisting the family. On-line condolences can be shared at www.mottandhenning.com.