A cougar has been shot and killed in Illinois. The animal was killed by a wildlife official and is reported to be between five and a half feet to six feet in length with a weight of over a hundred pounds.
Officials with the Illinois Conservation Police responded to a call at a Whiteside County farm on November 20th. On arrival, officers were told that a cougar had been spotted in a corn field running towards the home and outbuildings of the farm’s owner. Searching for the animal, officers found it in a concrete tunnel under a corn crib and, at the request of the farm owner, shot and killed the animal. The body has been turned over to wildlife biologists to examine.
Wildlife officials in most eastern states claim that the cougar or, mountain lion, as it is also known is mostly extinct east of the Mississippi. Apparently, all of the cougars haven’t gotten the memo because there continue to be reports of the big cats in the east.
Recently three cougars were seen outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Just prior to those sightings, a cougar was reported in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There have also been other reported sightings in Virginia, Massachusetts and New York.
People living in Midwestern states have been reporting the cats for years. Despite the ‘official’ status of the animal, many people, from hunters to housewives, have reported seeing the big cats.
Illinois has had numerous reports over the last ten years. State officials tend to dismiss the accounts and affirm that there is no breeding population of cougars in the state. They cannot however, deny that a number of the animals have been killed. A large male was killed by a train in Randolph County in 2002. A hunter killed another male in 2004 in Mercer County and in 2008 a male was shot and killed when it was spotted wandering around the north side of Chicago. The animal killed this month in Whiteside County makes the fourth ‘official’ cougar found in the state in recent years.
According to the “Living with Wildlife in Illinois” website:
“Mountain lions were extirpated from Illinois before 1870 and are not protected by the Illinois Wildlife Code. There is no evidence that a resident breeding population of mountain lions exists in Illinois at this time. Dispersing mountain lions are possible in Illinois.”
Illinois state wildlife officials believe that the occasional cougar travels in from South Dakota. Apparently no one in Iowa noticed them wandering through.
There are an estimated 30,000 cougars in the United States. They are mostly found in the mountainous western states. They are solitary hunters and prefer dense woods and hills as opposed to open ranges. Cougars are very territorial and each cat requires its own range to hunt, this in part, keeps the animal’s numbers on the low end.