An Illinois Department of Natural Resources conservation officer euthanized a cougar on a farm near Morrison on November 20.
The IDNR responded to the farm after the owner saw a large cat leaving a corn field and running toward the farm's home and outbuildings. Upon arrival the officer found the cougar in a concrete tunnel beneath a corn crib.
The officer consulted with the a residence of the farm, IDNR law enforcement, and wildlife personnel before deciding to euthanize the cougar at the farm owner's request. The animal was dispatched with an IDNR-issued rifle. The cougar appeared to be over 100 pounds and between 5'5" and 6' in length. Biologists will conduct a necropsy on the animal.
Cougars, or mountain lions, were totally removed from Illinois before 1870 and are not protected by the Illinois Wildlife Code. There's no evidence of a breeding population in the state, but occasionally, transient cougars have been found, most likely coming from states to the west, like South Dakota.
The state has had three confirmed cougars between 2002 and 2008 in Randolph County, Mercer County, and on the north side of Chicago. Genetic analysis shows they were genetically similar to cougars from South Dakota, but their history is uncertain.
Last fall, trail cameras in Jo Daviess, Morgan, Pike, and Calhoun counties have shown a live cougar and the IDNR believes that due to cougars' habit of traveling long distances and the proximity of the counties, that it may be the same animal.
More information on cougars can be found at web.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife/.
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