Cougars (also known as mountain lions or pumas) have been absent from many Midwestern and East Coast states since the late 1800s and early 1900s. Since the 1870s, there have only been four confirmed cougar sightings in the state of Illinois.
The latest evidence of cougars in Illinois came from a trail camera photograph taken in Morgan County by hunter Mark Cobb of Sherman on October 28. He hunts on property north of Jacksonville near Literberry. “Sunday afternoon, I got the SD cards out of the cameras and was sitting at my sister’s kitchen counter and was checking them out,” Cobb told The State Journal-Register. “I just kind of went, ‘Oh, my God,’ and everybody thought I had a big deer on there.”
The cougar was photographed on a trail camera within walking distance of Cobb’s mother and sister, which gave the whole family shivers that such a potentially dangerous animal was so close. It was enough to scare his 12-year-old son into not want to go hunting with Cobb.
Cobb was one of four people to have caught the photograph on his trail camera. “It’s kind of cool,” Cobb said. “Everybody hears the rumors, but not very many people have seen one.”
Cobb may have spotted the same cougar as another hunter with a trail cam earlier this year in mid-September near the Wisconsin border, with some speculating that it is the same large cat. Wildlife officials were tracking a cougar in southern Wisconsin in August, which they believe to be the same cat photographed by Cobb hundreds of miles south.
“There’s a lot of speculation involved, but it makes sense if you connect the dots,” DNR Furbearer Biologist Bob Bluett told Outdoor News. “It’s not easy for something as big as a cougar to escape notice or detection in the Midwest.”
Cougars are migratory animals, especially males. It’s possible this very same cougar has been spotted at least three times in the past year traveling south from Wisconsin through Illinois.
The last cougar that was spotted in Illinois traveled too close to the city of Chicago and was shot and killed there in 2008.