All four of Illinois’ confirmed cougar sightings this fall: Clockwise from top left: Jo Daviess County, Morgan County, Pike County and Calhoun County. Photos courtesy of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Brett Charlton and Mark Cobb.
Two more cougar sightings confirmed in central Illinois
The State Journal-Register
Two more cougar sightings have been confirmed in Pike and Calhoun counties, bringing the total to four confirmed sightings in Illinois in the past two months.
Included is one near Literberry, north of Jacksonville in Morgan County, on Oct. 28.
No one can say for sure if the sightings are of the same cat or more than one.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Tim Krumwiede verified the authenticity of the most recent trail camera photos, which were taken Nov. 6 in Pike County and Nov. 9 in Calhoun County. Both counties border the Mississippi River in west-central Illinois.
Krumwiede met with both landowners, looked at the photos on the cameras’ memory cards and in Calhoun County verified the site where the photo was taken.
“I’d bet everything I own on their authenticity,” he said. “They were two good photos — no-doubters.”
The four sightings this fall more than double the previous three verified cougar sightings in Illinois since the 1870s.
Cougars, also known as mountain lions, panthers, catamounts, painters and pumas, once ranged across most of the lower 48 states, but were driven out of Illinois more than a century ago.
Eureka high school teacher and coach Brett Charlton captured a field-guide-quality photo of a cougar on one of the four trail cameras he uses to monitor wildlife on hunting property he owns in Pike County.
Brett Charlton’s cougar photo from Pike County.
“We pulled all four cards and went back to the camper Friday night (to review them) and that one popped up,” he said. “We were looking at (the picture) in our camper and I said, ‘Surely, I’m not seeing things, but sure looks like it’s a mountain lion.’”
Charlton said stories have circulated in the area about cougars.
“The neighbor said he’s seen a black panther in our creek bottom,” he said. “I kind of blew it off because I thought it was just another story.”
Krumwiede said the cougar image in northern Calhoun County was taken near an entrance road where the landowner was having trouble with vandalism. Ironically, the photo was taken on a road named Wildcat Hollow, not far from Panther Creek.
Wildcat Hollow in northern Calhoun County gets its name honestly.
“He may have found a home from many, many years ago,” Krumwiede said.
The images all were captured at night, long after hunters should be out of the woods, but Krumwiede said DNR wants to hear from hunters who think they’ve seen cougars.
Attacks by cougars are rare. About 25 people have been killed by cougars in the United States over the past century, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Missouri has more experience with cougars, having documented 35 sightings since 1994. An article, “Living with Large Carnivores,” is available on the Missouri agency’s website.
According to the article, anyone who encounters a cougar is advised to maintain eye contact, raise arms to look bigger and back away slowly. Pick up dogs and children so they are not tempted to run.
Cougars that roam long distances are likely to be young males looking for mates.
Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.