Is There a Cougar Loose in Lake County?
Update 4-12-2008: Has the cougar been spotted in Wilmette? Click here to read the Wilmette update.
Update 4-14-1008: The Chicago Tribune reports on a cougar which was found in Chicago and shot dead by the police at about 5:30 pm.
A couple of years ago I was out in the Arizona desert, and suddenly I saw a mountain lion about 2 or 3 feet from me. My first reaction was "My, that's a large cat," but the cougar slinked off in fast order. I'm not sure whether I was ever in danger, but Lake County is very concerned about several reports of sighting of a cougar by local residents.
Despite repeated searches I have been unable to find much information about Illinois wildlife, although it is clear that many spottings of exotics are due to escaped or released animals owned by someone as a pet.
It's obvious that foxes and coyotes, deer, racoons, squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks, ducks and geese live among us, but could it be there is a far greater variety of wild animals that have adapted to suburbia than we have previously imagined? It would be nice if someone would gather up the information. A couple of years ago, sharpshooters were assigned to forest preserves in the New Trier area to cull a large population of deer. Is it strange to believe that their natural predators are showing up in the area? Unfortunately, no one knows.
A big hat tip to El Rider, who covered this intesting story on his blog.
UPDATE: Please read this fact sheet from the United States Department of Agriculture (pdf format) for tips on living with cougars. In addition, there are several potentially livesaving tips for you, your family and your pets which you can read by clicking here. What to do if you encounter the cougar? Read this or this to be prepared. While the webpage features an annoying growl this page on cougar do's and don'ts might be helpful.
Statistics show that a person is ten times more likely to be killed by a dog than a mountain lion, but you may want to read further about mountain lion attacks, including anecdotal evidence from 1890 to the present.
BOTTOM LINE: If you live in the area where the mountain lion has reportedly been spotted, don't go walking in the woods, especially not with your dog (dogs are mountain lion magnets), don't let your kids go outside to play alone, and don't leave your pets unattended! Note: One of the most recent sightings occurred in the forest preserves, so it isn't a good time to take an early spring hike.