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Cougar Killed in Chicago

Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 15th, 2008

“Cougars don’t exist in Illinois,” we have all been told for years, especially before two 21st century incidents began to alert people to the notion eyewitnesses seeing the cats weren’t crazy.

“They are extinct in the state,” officialdom still claimed.

Now, beyond belief, a cougar or puma or mountain lion, whatever you wish to call it, has been killed on the North Side of Chicago on April 14, 2008.

Obtaining an actual body is the ultimate proof, of course.

The Chicago Tribune’s photographer Candice C. Cusic snapped the images on Monday, which sum up the story (below), from the felid body to the human observers:

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A cougar ran loose in Chicago on Monday for the first time since the city’s founding in the 19th Century. But by day’s end, the animal lay dead in a back alley on the North Side, shot by police who said they feared it was turning to attack.

No one knew where the 150-pound cat came from, though on Saturday Wilmette police had received four reports of a cougar roaming that suburb, roughly 15 miles from the site of Monday’s shooting.

Whatever its origin, the 5-foot-long cougar’s unlikely journey ended in the Roscoe Village neighborhood, where residents reported sightings throughout the day to the Chicago Commission on Animal Care and Control. Resident Ben Greene said police cornered the cougar shortly before 6 p.m. in his side yard on the 3400 block of North Hoyne Avenue.

Greene said he heard a volley of gunfire as he was bathing his 10-month-old son. His wife, Kate, ran upstairs screaming with their 3-year-old son, and they all took cover in a back room.

“At first, I’m thinking there’s a gun battle in the street,” said Greene, who owns a trucking company.

As the shots stopped, Greene heard the police yelling, “We got him! We got him!” He ventured downstairs and moved on his knees to the front door, where he saw police on his lawn. The officers had shot holes in an air conditioning unit on the side of Greene’s house while aiming for the tan cougar, which died in the alley near Greene’s garage.

Chicago Police Capt. Mike Ryan said the cougar tried to attack the officers when they tried to contain it. Police said no one was hurt and they did not know the cougar’s gender.

“It was turning on the officers,” Ryan said, adding that no officers were hurt. “There was no way to take it into custody.”

Normally reclusive creatures, most cougars retreated to habitats in the Rocky Mountains and Black Hills early in American history. But some researchers believe overcrowding in recent years has driven the animals back east.

Two cougars have been killed in Illinois in the last decade. In 2000, a train struck and killed one in Randolph County in southern Illinois, and in 2004 a bow hunter killed a cougar in Mercer County in western Illinois.

But in the previous century, there had been no confirmed sightings in Illinois of a cougar, which is also known as a puma, mountain lion or panther. The last known appearance of the animal was in 1864 at the southern end of the state.

The Wilmette and Chicago sightings capped a flurry of recent cougar activity in the area, though no one knows if that was all the same animal. Several people reported seeing a cougar at the end of March in North Chicago, about 20 miles north of Wilmette. A Wisconsin trapper came face to face with a cougar in January, about 25 miles from the Illinois border.

That trapper said the cat bounded away 12 feet at a leap.

Starting early Monday, frightened Roscoe Village residents began calling police with reports of a cougar which was bounding over high fences in the neighborhood. Greene said his wife got an e-mail alert about the animal Monday morning through a neighborhood watch list.

Frank Hirschmann, 50, of the 3500 block of North Seeley Avenue saw the animal pass by his home.

“I was sitting on the porch, and all of a sudden he crossed the street, and hurdled a 6-foot fence like nothing,” Hirschmann said. He said he then ran into his house and watched police chase the cougar on foot.

Animal control officials were not sure if the cougar was wild or an escaped pet, though they noted that it is illegal to keep the animals as pets. It’s unclear how a cougar could have traveled south into Chicago from Wilmette, but the areas are connected by a Metra train route, on which the cougar could have walked, and a waterway.

Ben Greene’s neighbor, Romeo Dorazio, had just gotten home from dinner when he heard about 10 gunshots.

“I knew it was really nearby. I walked to the window and saw a cougar,” Dorazio said. “It was the freakiest thing I ever saw.”

James Reynolds was sitting in his living room when he heard what seemed like “fireworks popping.”

The 45-year-old went out in his back yard and saw a cougar attempting to jump from his neighbor’s fence to his. He knew it was a cougar because he had seen it on the Discovery Channel, he said.

Officers shouted for him to go inside his house, and he saw them kill the cougar in about 10 shots.

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said Monday that the state’s current wildlife code does not protect cougars because they are not considered a normal part of the ecosystem here. The official said the only state regulations that might come into play would be gun ordinances, but because police did the shooting that issue is moot.

Greene said he agreed with the police decision to kill the cougar.

“As far as I witnessed, they did a pretty good job,” Greene said. “Hypothetically, if there were kids in the yard and the cougar jumps in, what would the cougar have done?”

Source: “Cops kill cougar on North Side: Neighborhood stunned as animal cornered, shot in back alley”, by Jeremy Manier and Tina Shah, Chicago Tribune, April 15, 2008. Tribune reporter Jeremy Gorner contributed to this report.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


22 Responses to “Cougar Killed in Chicago”

  1. planettom responds:

    Appears to be a healthy specimen, looks fairly well fed, too bad they had to kill it. I guess circumstances warranted.

  2. Ampersand responds:

    planettom said they had to kill the cougar because “circumstances warranted.” How so? Because an animal afraid for it’s life was fleeing? Can you imagine if this had been a human being fleeing police, leaping fences, etc. and the officers put 10 bullets into him instead of trying to apprehend? There would be rioting. Instead, since this is a “lowly animal”, they can execute it based on their idiot mentality and “logic” that it would have attacked small children had said children been in one of the yards in which the cougar had lept. Using my previous point of contention regarding the human fugitive, what would stop a human being from harming a child, or taking it hostage, etc.? Nothing, in fact it would be MORE plausible that the human would do harm to the child than the cougar, yet human beings are given the benefit of the doubt as we are the “superior species”. Things like this really piss me off. There is no reason that they could not have tranquilized this cougar and released it into the wild, they had the time to make preparations to do so, as sightings had been reported since the entire previous day. Instead, they just decide to kill it.

  3. CamperGuy responds:

    Bad situation with a regrettable outcome.

    My suspicion is the animal is wild but was captured and set loose in the city.

  4. windigo responds:

    I can’t help but believe that this is another example of someone releasing an exotic pet, which became too difficult to care for. Either way, it’s shame that such a magnificent animal had to be slaughtered.

  5. Spinach Village responds:

    Bummer… They could of put a collar on it and placed back towards the nearest reasonable forested area and monitored it… it might of led researchers to other cougars during mating season … wait were in mating season or close aren’t we? … wow

    they could of learned new cougar routes all sorts of stuff….

    i blame the outcome on trigger happy coppers

  6. Spinach Village responds:

    my point is that it seems that there only “plan” was to kill it…. it doesn’t seem like they even bothered to consider alternatives

  7. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Poor thing. What a shame. There are too few left :(

  8. cryptidsrus responds:

    Sad indeed.

    I guess the police felt it was necessary.

    At least there’s “proof,” but I agree, what a shame…

  9. Point Radix responds:

    “A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said Monday that the state’s current wildlife code does not protect cougars because they are not considered a normal part of the ecosystem here”

    Sad, but not really surprising. The typical reaction when faced with a large unknown or unexpected “adversary” (normally reclusive creature). I guess that now they really are extinct in the wild.

    What if a large unknown or unexpected bipedal primate (aka Bigfoot) had uncharacteristically wandered into such an area? When confronted with the “authorities”, it too would most likely turn in an offensive-defensive manner – and would have probably been consigning itself to a similar fate; then the first “proof” of the existence would have been similar to these photos.

    Worse yet, I fear that one day we may learn in a similar manner that the Thylacine did not go extinct in 1930’s, we will have to see the report they still existed…up to a few minutes before the photograph was taken…

  10. PhotoExpert responds:

    I’m not sure what the actual circumstances were, but before the police “cornered it”, couldn’t they have waited for Wildlife Control to “dart it”?

    I have seen instances where they respond to calls as officers “keep an eye” on the subject. Then the wildlife agent shows up as the bear, large cat, or other animal is darted. Many times these situations take place in populated areas.

    I am just afraid that what might have happened here is the gang mentality when dealing with wildlife. A call goes out on the radio and everyone with earshot responds because of the oddity of the situation. Then they all box the animal in, cornering it and giving it nowhere to go.

    I’ll give the police the benefit of the doubt in this scenario since there is no video on it and I was not there to witness the situation personally. But it seems to me that over 90% of these cases result in an effective tranquilization and relocation of the animal. The other 10% end in the animal getting away or being killed.

    I just hope there were not a few trigger happy cops that wanted to make a name for themselves at the expense of the cougar’s life.

    Anyway, there was an elephant in the room. Instead of ignoring it, I thought I might speak up and acknowledge the elephant.

  11. squatchwatcher responds:

    What do they think a wild animal is gonna do when it’s cornered!? I agree with other bloggers here and think the police should have called in wildlife agents right away and had them dart it and released in the wild somewhere outside city limits. Even with all our knowledge and technological advances, we still are the dumbest species on the planet!

  12. gridbug responds:

    “I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.”

    :(

  13. Samson77 responds:

    Very well stated Photoexpert.
    It is very sad that we as humans kill what we do not understand.
    This terrified animal was probably just trying to get away from any human it encountered.
    I personally live in an area surrounded by Mountain Lion habitat in So Cal and in 45 years have only seen 2, both of which wanted nothing to do with humans.

  14. Ceroill responds:

    I find it very sad that it takes a situation like this for the officials to admit that such encounters can be real. At least they didn’t trot out the old “It’s obviously an escapee from a zoo or circus” line.

  15. Endroren responds:

    I’m not saying the situation ended well…it didn’t, but it’s a freaking MOUNTAIN LION. Mountain Lion vs Man = Dead Man. Come on people. The report was that they tried to contain it (whether this was a good plan or not is a different issue) but it came at one of them and they shot it. There was no “hunt it down and kill it” story here. Read the article.

    Are there better ways to handle wild carnivores that wander into human occupied areas? Yes…but I doubt it will surprise you to know that this isn’t something the folks in Chicago deal with a lot. Do you really think these guys were trained for this? Do you think it is even worth tax payer money to train them for this sort of scenario? The city and its suburbs have plenty of other problems that come up far more often than Cougar wrangling.

    And do you think they hadn’t called Animal Control? I’m sure they had, but they FINALLY found this thing that had been roaming around and they didn’t want to lose it before Animal Control go there.

    And do you think the neighbors would have said “No no…take your time and just watch it. Sure, it might get away, but we’d rather have a frightened hungry cougar running around our yards and our kids than have you shoot it.” What did you expect the cops to do?

    I love wildlife. I want to preserve wildlife. But you can’t take a situation like this, with all the many factors that lead up to it and factor into it, and blanket it with a “Gang Mentality Brutal Cops Shoot Wonderful Beautiful Peaceful Creature.”

    Next time they spot a cougar we’ll have them call you and you can hug it and pet it until animal control arrives.

  16. dimestore responds:

    I live in this area, in fact I bike past that spot on my way to work. This is a heavily populated neighborhood. Hundreds of people are walking around there at any given hour. There was really no alternative. There are no wild animal darters employed by Chicago, and I doubt Animal Control could have done anything. They would have had to get a professional from the zoo to come out, and who knows how long that would take. Large predators are not easy to dart, and there is no way to control the animal until it falls asleep. When you dart a large animal they are pissed off and wander around. Also, there is no “wild” to release a cougar to in Illinois. I love kitties as much as the next person, but I don’t really see what else could have been done. Just take a look at google street view and I think you’ll know what we’re talking about.

  17. pgb7112000 responds:

    It’s disturbing how sheltered a society we’ve become. One witness said “It was the freakiest thing I ever saw”, while another ‘knew it was a cougar because he had seen it on the Discovery Channel’. This is the state of America today. A country which spends the majority of it’s time in front of their televisions and X-boxes, and their only encounters with wildlife are with pigeons and squirrels.

    It should be no surprise that situations like these always end in the death of the animal. Our trigger happy society says shoot first and ask questions later. Apparently, after they had cornered the animal, they were shocked that the animal turned on them. I guess they were expecting it to turn and play poker with them and when it didn’t break out a deck of cards, they blasted it.

    Isn’t it about time the police are trained to ‘dart’ animals in these situations instead of waiting for Animal Control to show up.

    And exactly how long does it take to get a response from Animal Control in Chicago. Is the city so flooded with cougars that they couldn’t get someone to this neigborhood before 6pm. Letting the police fire off ten rounds to kill a cat, put the residents more in danger than the animal did.

    Wake up Chicago…before this happens again.

    And sorry Endroren…but exactly how many people have been killed by cougars in the US in the past 50 years. We are not a typical meal for these animals.

    Mountain Lion vs Man = Dead Mountain Lion

  18. redwood responds:

    We had that coyote jump into a Quiznos refrigerated drink area a few years ago, and that ended much better. A mountain lion is far more intimidating than a coyote, but still…the news never mentioned the presence of a tranquilizer gun, and the footage of the residents showed people who were entirely unrepentant in the death of the animal. That’s what hurts nearly as much as the blatant shooting of this puma. It just saddens me to no end.

    I know our cops were in a bad situation of dealing with an unusual threat in a nicer neighborhood, but somebody, somewhere, should have had a tranquilizer gun.

  19. DARHOP responds:

    As to what Ampersand said (see above)…

    Couldn’t of said it better myself. That animal didn’t have to die. Poor thing. Chalk another one up to the all mighty human race! Man I just hate us sometimes!

  20. rayrich responds:

    Gotta love the human race. We’re afraid of our own shadows. Pathetic!

  21. Endroren responds:

    “And sorry Endroren…but exactly how many people have been killed by cougars in the US in the past 50 years. We are not a typical meal for these animals. ”

    One might argue that open space and lack of contact is the primary reason, and that killing the Mountain Lion in situations where they are forced into direct contact with man is the other reason for this.

    I’m sorry folks but all the “poor animal bad humans” talk is really annoying. It doesn’t take ANY of the realities of this situation into account.

    Who pays for tranq guns? How often will they get used? Who pays to train the cops to use them? How many of these bloody guns do you think they’ll need? Who will write the rules for the proper use of these weapons? Who will present it to city council for approval? If the money is used for tranq guns it has to come from somewhere. I don’t see any of you volunteering to pay for this so it’s going to been less money for other parts of law enforcement budgets.

    And read up on tranqing animals. You don’t just shoot them, they fall asleep, and you’re done. You have to monitor their vital signs VERY closely. Who on the force will get this training? Who will buy the equipment. I mean you are pumping this animal FULL of powerful drugs. This can prove as fatal as a bullet if you don’t handle this as a medical procedure. You’re as “TV ignorant” as the people you’re criticizing because the only tranquilizing you’ve seen is the edited footage on Discovery channel that makes it seem so easy.

    And do you know what standard Zoo policy is for handling an escaped large cat? Shoot it. Not with a tranq gun. With a rifle. The animal is pumped up on adrenaline, there is no telling how much chemical to use (no, the little darts aren’t load and shoot…they are a medical device). Too little, you piss it off and it go crazy. Too much, you kill it. On top of that, a proper dose can take up to 30 minutes to take effect!

    I’m not even going to go into the “how bad does the police department get sued it a wild cougar kills a citizen while they wait for the zoo to arrive.” SO many factors that you so conveniently gloss over.

    It’s really wonderful to have the luxury of sitting backing and shouting “Evil Police Evil Society Evil Humans” without knowing what you are talking about and giving no thought to the full situation.

    You know, maybe if you focus your efforts and anger on preserving the habitats where these animals can live safely instead of yelling about this, maybe then it will make a difference. Then you won’t have them pushed into thickly inhabited areas.

  22. pgb7112000 responds:

    I’m not sure an argument can be made that mountain lions don’t attack humans in the US because of all the open space. In California, there are 5K – 6K mountain lions sharing a state with more than 33M people. Not exactly the definition of open space for an animal that needs between 25 and 300 square miles of territory for adult mountain lions, depending on terrain and other factors. Even with such limited space, there have only been a dozen attacks in California by mountain lions, with 3 fatalities since 1986. I know that’s no comfort for those families, but the likelihood of being killed by dogs or bees is far greater than by mountain lions. My point still, is that mountain lions, much like wolves do not see humans as a menu item, and have learned through the years to avoid humans at all costs. If these animals are found in a major city, it’s not because they are looking for a tasty human snack, but rather making its way to more fertile hunting grounds by following ancient game trails which have been paved over by humans.

    As for actually dealing with these animals if they stumble into one of our large cities. Obviously the police should not be responsible for this task. Their only function in these situations would to keep the public at a safe distance. The only people qualified to deal with these types of animals, other than possibly veterinarians who are too busy running their private practices, are zoo personnel. Most cities have at least one zoo, if not more within their boundaries. They have the most experience when it comes to tranquilizing animals, and should be able to put together some kind of emergency response team for dealing with these situations. Since mountain lions or other large wild animals wandering into residential neighborhoods happens so infrequently, there shouldn’t be much burden for the zoos in handling these sporadic encounters. Plus expenditures for tranq guns and training wouldn’t need to come out of any law enforcement budgets. This would also take care of the monitoring of the animal once it has been sedated, since zoo personnel are also qualified in this area. And even if it takes up to 30 minutes for the animal to be sedated…so what? The first calls on this animal came early in the morning, and the police couldn’t track it down until 6pm. And in all that time no one was killed. 30 minutes of waiting is much better than years in the court system fighting lawsuits.

    In the case of this particular mountain lion, Chicago’s Animal Control, would have been of no assistance since it seems by looking at their website, that they are only capable of dealing with dogs, cats, and rabbits. But letting the police shoot almost a dozen rounds to kill a 150lb cat in a residential neighborhood is lunacy. Imagine if one of those bullets had gone through someone’s window and killed them. If you want to see the police get sued then by all means, keep up these kinds of activities, because the odds are that someone will get shot. Cities need to develop emergency response teams in coordination with their local zoos before something like this happens in the future…and it will because the mountain lions are headed east. And with so little mountain lion habitat east of the Mississippi, it will happen sooner rather than later.

    This shouldn’t be taken as a don’t kill the animal at all costs plea, obviously if there are no other options available, and the animal can’t be sedated or trapped, then unfortunately these animals have to be removed. But with a population of 300M and counting, the amount of wild space left in this country is quickly diminishing as we try to plaster this country with houses and condos from sea to shining sea. Alternatives have to be found to the ‘kill first’ mentality or these animals with end up in small isolated pockets of wilderness where they will reach genetic dead-ends.



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