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Illinois hunting and fishing

This trail camera photo showing a cougar’s tail and hind legs has been confirmed as legitimate. Wildlife officials speculate that it may be the same animal that was photographed in Morgan County recently.

Morgan County cougar could have wandered from Wisconsin

November 04, 2012 at 09:00 PM

The State Journal-Register

State wildlife officials have confirmed another cougar sighting in Illinois, and they speculate it might be the same animal photographed by a Morgan County trail camera just after midnight Oct. 28.

In mid-September, a cougar’s tail and back legs were photographed by another trail camera near upstate Warren, just on the Illinois side of the Wisconsin border.

A tree obscured the camera’s view of the rest of the animal’s body.

Wildlife biologists had been tracking a cougar in southern Wisconsin in August, and they assumed it had continued on to Illinois.

An Illinois Conservation Police officer visited the scene after Warren police reported the sighting and matched it to the picture.

Seven weeks later, deer hunter Mark Cobb was startled to see a cougar on his trail camera near Literberry, north of Jacksonville.

“There’s a lot of speculation involved, but it makes sense if you connect the dots,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources furbearer biologist Bob Bluett. “It’s not easy for something as big as a cougar to escape notice or detection in the Midwest.

“And the last documented occurrence in Illinois, in 2008, was preceded by a confirmed sighting in southern Wisconsin.”

That animal made it all the way into the city of Chicago, where it was shot and killed.

Bluett said the Warren sighting got a second look after the Morgan County cat was confirmed.

It turned out two reports from Warren had been lumped together.

The situation got confusing because one of those turned out to be a hoax. The other, however, appears to be legitimate, Bluett said.

“We had a guy that submitted a photo as a hoax,” said district wildlife biologist Doug Dufford, who is based in Savanna.

“That is the danger you run into,” he said. “The rumor mill gets going, and it seems some people just want a piece of the glory.”

The hoax photo had been circulating on the Internet the year before in Wisconsin, he said.

Illinois hunting and fishing
This is the photo submitted as a hoax. Wisconsin wildlife biologists recognized it as one that was circulating last year.

“It’s obvious that you can’t be too careful,” Dufford said.

Even sharp and clear photos must have their authenticity verified.

“First you have to ask, ‘Is it the right time of year?’” said wildlife biologist Mike Chandler, who investigated the Morgan County sighting. “Are the trees and plants in the photo found in Illinois?

“If so, then you have to go out to the scene and try to find the spot where the picture was taken.”

Chandler said he receives cougar reports from the public about once every two months. Usually, biologists can work through a series of questions to help identify what the caller saw.

There is no denying the possibility of seeing a cougar is exciting.

“People want to see one in the worst way,” he said. “But in my career, I have handled maybe three reports that warranted investigation.”

Cougar sightings are more common in Missouri, where the Department of Conservation says its Mountain Lion Response Team has investigated hundreds of reports. MDOC has confirmed 34 reports since 1994, but so far there is no established breeding population.

Illinois has confirmed sightings of four cougars (five if the Warren and Morgan County sightings are of different animals) since the 1870s.

Bobcats, house cats, coyotes, foxes and even deer are often mistaken for cougars, according to MDOC.

Chandler said he refers callers to the Cougar Network’s Puma Field Guide, which includes natural history information and clues to identifying tracks.

The guide is available in PDF form online at:

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.

Related stories

Cougar captured on trail camera in Morgan County confirmed

This is only the fourth confirmed Illinois sighting of a cougar – also known as a mountain lion, panther, puma or catamount – since the cats were driven from Illinois in the 1870s.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

It is easy to mistake a cougar for a deer if the one I saw was any indication. They are almost the same color and body size as a deer except for the tail thats a dead give away. The one I saw crossing RT116 directly in my head lights almost took up one lane of traffic but was slinking right on the pavement. You couldnt mistake the large shoulder blades as he was moving plus the long tail. A deer with no legs is what others have described. It takes a while for your brain to eliminate any thing other then what you saw.“What the hell did I just see?”

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/05 at 12:25 PM

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