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Illinois’ Recent Puma Kills

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 19th, 2010

chicpuma2
The Chicago puma, April 2008.

Illinois has a documented history of puma kills.

Discussing the April 2008 shooting of a cougar in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune wrote: “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.”

Even the conservative but incorrect University of Illinois wildlife directory notes: “Mountain lions were extirpated from Illinois before 1870. A resident breeding population of mountain lions does not exist in Illinois. Three mountain lions were found in Illinois since 2000. A male mountain lion was killed by a train in Randolph County in 2002. Another male was killed by a bow hunter in Mercer County in 2004. A third male was shot and killed in the Roscoe Village neighborhood in Chicago in April 2008. Although analysis indicates these animals were genetically similar to mountain lions from South Dakota, their history in the wild is uncertain (i.e. wild dispersing male or escaped captive).”

Cryptomundo covered the killing of the Chicago cougar extensively. As I noted then, it was a wild puma, not an escaped pet. “A 124-pound cougar shot by Chicago police earlier this month is the same wild animal that was spotted in southern Wisconsin in January, Cook County officials said today, April 30, 2008. DNA taken from the cat killed April 15 in Roscoe Village matches genetic material found in Rocky County, Wisconsin, following a cougar sighting there on January 15, 2008.”

As can be seen these two sources can’t even agree on when the Randolph County puma was killed by a train.

In this case, the governmental body is wrong. It happened in 2000.

Here’s how the Nature Almanac details this incident:
“On July 17, [2000] a bright moonlit night, a speeding freight train killed a cougar near Menard State Prison in Randolph County. An autopsy revealed that this cat was a healthy, mature, 110 pound male between four and six years of age. It showed no signs of wear on its paws to indicate recent travel, no evidence of confinement or human contact of any sort, all of its parasites were those commonly found in the midwest, and its last meal had been a fawn. Analysis of the cat’s DNA revealed that it came from the southern race of mountain lions – those living from Mexico and Texas to central Arkansas. When all the evidence was in the conclusion was both surprising and inescapable – this was no escaped pet but a truly wild animal.”

Sometimes, people mistakenly report that the Illinois train-killed cougar had a collar on it, thus making it a formerly caught or captive cat. But this appears to be because they are mixing the story of the Illinois train incident with one in Oklahoma.

“On May 27th 2004 a dead cougar was found near Red Rock Oklahoma, 80 miles North of Oklahoma City. A railroad worker reported finding a dead cougar laying near tracks he had been inspecting. What made this particular cougar so important is that on February 24, 2003 it had been fitted with a radio collar after being treed by dogs and shot with a tranquilizer. After being collared the 80 pound male cougar was last tracked 58 miles to the northeast on September 3rd. Although his exact travel route is unknown, we know he ended up more than 660 straight line miles some 8 months later. This is nearly twice the distance of any previously known travel. Another interesting thing about this study is that a second male cougar is known to have traveled over 500 miles and is now in Minnesota along the Canadian border.” (Source)

There are several “Confirmed Eastern Cougar” finds:

• Illinois, Randolph County – July 15th 2000. Dead male mountain lion aprx 4-6 years old found near railroad tracks. North American origin. No signs of being confined. link

• Missouri, Clay County – October 2002 a 2-3 year old male lion

• Missouri, Callaway County – In August 2003 a 1.5 year old male was killed by a car. Grey squirrel in stomach, no signs of confinement-related link

• Arkansas, Perry County – August 2003 a hunter using a wildlife camera photographed a cougar in the Winona WMA.

• Maine – 2003 outdoorsman spots cougar and cub and makes a report to wildlife agency who follow-up with biologist visit. Hairs were found and confirmed to be mountain lion. (This happened just south of Portland, at Cape Elizabeth, Maine. – LC)

• Illinois, near New Boston – December 4, 2004 dead cougar found by hunters. This cougar had apparently been shot by someone with archery equipment probably a few days before it was found.

• Wisconsin – January 2007 a cougar sighting reported by a trapper was confirmed by DNA tests on urine found after Wisconsin DNR followed up on the sighting report. Further tests are expected to determine whether the mountain lion was of south American origin or a native subspecies.

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 “Illinois’ Recent Puma Kills”

  1. viperwolf responds:

    Cougars are very intelligent animals that travel long distances as explained in this article so this doesn’t suprise me at all.

  2. Porkchop responds:

    There is a model in conservation about addressing species that is itself quite controversial. but its the 50/500 model as discussed by David Quammen in either Song of the Dodo, or Monster of God (I think it’s Song of the Dodo).

    If memory serves, they consider a species extinct or extirpated if they can’t find 50 specimens, and they figure it has too much of a “genetic load” (inbreeding) working against it if the authorities think the population is under 500.

    So while these sightings are happening more frequently, it’s still below the threshold of 50 to expect MO, IL, or WI DNR to do anything. Once they recognize they have a population, then they have to go through the process of having a plan for the species, which they also don’t want to do, especially since, as viperwolf has pointed out, cougars can be remarkably transient. After I read that book, I’m more comfortable with official reticence.

    That said I’d LOVE to see one here in Central IL, provided there was something between me (and loved ones) and the cougar!

  3. Cryptidcrazy responds:

    There have been several people that I know here in southwestern Ohio who have seen cougars. I was one of them. It was about 8 years ago at 6:30 a.m. and I was driving to work on OH 27, when I saw one walking on a hillside. The tail was as long as the body was and it was a sandy brown.
    I really believe these animals are in many more places than people realize, they are intelligent, reclusive animals and should be protected.
    As for the story, I am offended that the people who killed some of the animals in Illinois, are referred to as “hunters”. These people definitely aren’t hunters. They are poachers, pure and simple. I would have thought Loren would know the difference. I am disappointed in him. Hunters know and follow the rules, set forth by the state. Poachers kill for profit and bloodlust and knowingly break laws.

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    While I can hear that one might be offended if I had actually “said” someone is a hunter when they might not be, I find it incredible to be blamed for sourced material in which I quote others as describing someone as a hunter.

    If one has proof, btw, that the individuals who killed the pumas are poachers, then one should inform local law enforcement, not critique Cryptomundo for quoting what is reported about these folks.

  5. Shelley responds:

    There have also been dead bobcats found in the southern IL area. Could some of them be confused with the cougar/puma finds? The authorities still won’t admit that there are bobcats around here, so puma are even harder to acknowledge.

    Even though the habitat down here would be much more conducive to a big cat–more wilderness, more deer and other prey–the fact that the tip of southern IL is surrounded by fairly wide rivers is supposed to keep animals from migrating in from Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, etc. The eastern border would be a bit easier, but are there any sightings in Indiana or southern Indiana? If those cougars are coming in from the north and like to walk, they will get here eventually.

    And we have had times when both the Mississippi and Ohio would not be much of an obstacle–hard freezes and droughts. Deer have been seen crossing the Mississippi River down near Cape Girardeau at such times, even with the tow boats keeping a channel open. Plus there are bridges across the rivers that are not used by cars–railroad bridges and pipeline bridges–that would be easy for a big cat to cross.

    In January my SO was driving very slowly in a snowstorm, and his car was hit by a large deer running rapidly across a country road. There certainly must have been something after it, past the mating season, late at night in the snow. Unfortunately he did not see or hear any sign of the predator.

  6. kittenz responds:

    I don’t doubt that there are wild pumas in nearly every state east of the Mississippi. I know there are pumas in Kentucky and probably also in the more remote mountainous regions all along the Appalachian Range. There’s plenty of food and cover now and pumas are beginning to recover their former habitats.

  7. Cryptidcrazy responds:

    I apologize if I accused Loren of the mistake. I saw his name at the top of the article and jumped to conclusions. It just irritates me to no end when hunters and poachers are lumped together. They are as different as night and day. Poachers are the “scum of the earth”, as far as I’m concerned. Since these Pumas are not native to Illinois, it was obviously killed by someone who did not know or care about the hunting rules of his/her state. That makes them a poacher, pure and simple.
    Whether or not this was a direct quote from another source, I just wish something could have been added, distinguishing that even though the source said the puma was killed by a hunter, it was actually a poacher. Since there is no legal hunting season on pumas, the kill was illegal.

  8. Hoytshooter responds:

    Cryptidcrazy should take the time to check to see what the definition of a poacher is; a person who kills a PROTECTED animal outside of the legal hunting season or who is hunting in an area where hunting either is not allowed or only open to certain people. Since Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri do not have resident populations of cougars/pumas, at least according to their respective fish and game/conservation departments, these animals are not protected in any way and are pretty much fair game for any one who gets one in their sights.

  9. Cryptidcrazy responds:

    So you’re saying it would be perfectly legal to kill a bigfoot, because they aren’t recognized as a species and therefore, aren’t protected? That is ridiculous. Let’s not take into account that there might be a small population of such creatures. Let’s just kill them all, because we can. That’s why we have lost so many other species throughout the years. Animals kill for food and self defense, man kills for bloodlust. And they call us the most intelligent creatures on earth. Too bad humans aren’t the most compassionate.

  10. Porkchop responds:

    @cryptidcrazy

    I think you are conflating moral and legal.

    Hoytshooter is merely pointing out the terms divergence.

  11. Shelley responds:

    Porkchop is right. Sometimes the two are the same, sometimes shockingly different. The case recently of the man who trapped and accidentally killed what might have been the last jaguar in the US–legal. After some consideration, they’ve decided to bring charges against him. It won’t bring the animal back.

    They have been talking since the earliest discoveries of cyptids about the morality of killing or capturing them. There were plans to harpoon Nessie or trap him in a tiny metal cage. Similar ideas about Bigfoot. Morally of course it is wrong. Legally, since they do not exist, not illegal. I believe the UK passed a law saying that should a live Nessie be found, it was legally protected. But is there such a law in the US or Canada against harming a Bigfoot?

    The only cougar that has protected status in the US is the Florida panther, isn’t that so? So unless you are in Florida or its near vicinity, any cougar you may see is part of the population of the rest of the US. If your state has no laws against killing cougars or killing animals out of season, then you could kill one and suffer no legal penalty. That picture of the huge stuffed cougar in FT shows that it is legal to kill and stuff one without expecting legal penalties. Misrepresenting its origins might be another kind of legal trespass, though.

  12. stratterbrain responds:

    Poachers do not only kill protected animals. Anyone killing any animal out of the legal hunting season is considered a poacher. Game laws vary from state to state. The killing of any animal not specifically listed as a game animal or a nuisance species by the VA Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries is illegal in Virginia, except in self defense. As far as I know, the Eastern cougar is considered an endangered species, and thus protected under federal law. The problem there is that wildlife biologists have separated cougars into several subspecies. Cougars moving in from the west may not be necessarily considered eastern, just because they live here. Only DNA testing can definitively prove the difference between eastern cougars and other subspecies. I spend a lot of time hunting and camping in the Appalachians, and have never seen a cougar. I do believe they are here however. Too many credible witnesses have seen them .I work with a guy who says his father has killed 2 in western Virginia because they were threatening his livestock.

  13. Porkchop responds:

    First, Did I misuse “terms” ? Please forgive me.

    Second @Shelley, that’s not necessarily true. MO has what is called a permissive hunting program which means if it has a season, you can kill it in season (e.g. deer, geese). If it doesn’t have a season, you can’t kill it (e.g. bear, armadillo). Which is pretty ingenious.

    So I think killing cougars would carry a penalty there, and other permissive states. It’s funny permissive means the opposite in this case. I had permissive parents, I could only do what they gave me permission to do…

    (There are armadilloes in South Central Missouri. My wife wouldn’t let me take a picture of the one we saw as roadkill near Bennett Springs!)

  14. Shelley responds:

    Okay, you are probably right. The people that I got my info from are gun nuts but not hunters. They seem to think that you can kill anything that is moving, but have not read the actual rules. I can’t imagine that IL would allow looser rules than MO which is considered a hunters’ paradise. We still have people around here who kill coyotes, raccoons, woodchucks, beaver and anything else that bothers them with relative impunity. Laws don’t always get enforced.

    There are armadillos as close as Cape Girardeau, but I don’t think they are going to cross the river barriers as easily as cougar and deer can. They seem to deal with cars very badly, even worse than possum. [To see a live possum around here is worth a mention; I counted 5 dead ones in a 3-mile drive to town.] They sure are cuter than possums, who come up on the porch and steal from the bird feeder and the cat food dish, and hiss dramatically at you if you try to stop them. They apparently also deliver deep bites to feral cats who get in their way.

    So were the cougars killed in Randolph County and Chicago considered to be western or eastern cougars? They did not do genetic tests in 2000, but I thought they had info on the Chicago one, that he came from Minnesota?

  15. kittenz responds:

    Both the Eastern Cougar subspecies and the Florida Panther subspecies of the cougar are protected throughout their ranges.

    See http://www.cites.org/eng/com/AC/24/E24-18-02.pdf

    The problem is deciding which animals are Eastern Cougars (of the protected subspecies) or dispersing / wandering cougars from western states.

  16. Hoytshooter responds:

    Porkchop, I’d have to find a copy of MO’s hunting regs but I think you’re wrong about not being able to hunt animals for which there is not specific hunting season. I’m fairly sure that it is open season anytime on animals such as coyotes, prairie dogs, crows and some others considered to be varmits. As far as armadillos go no one has found a good use for them which is why they are not hunted, much, though they are actually supposed to be quite tasty. Btw, if I remember correctly they do swim quite well. I don’t know how close they’ve been seen to St Louis but I do know a number of road kills have been seen on I-44 in the St James/Rolla area, which is only about a 90 minute drive.

  17. BAMALADY responds:

    Hi, I’m new here and have never posted, however as I grew up in a family of avid hunters, I’d like to clarify what constitutes poaching. It is considered poaching if you do not have a permit/license, you are hunting outside of the season, you are using an illegal weapon (like hunting deer with a rifle in bow-season), you are hunting an animal on land without the property owner’s permission, you are “baiting” the animals (setting corn out during season for deer is baiting), you are hunting a protected/endangered animal, or the animal is tagged for research. I believe there are a few other things that involve selling for meat or body parts and baiting has further restrictions on it as well, but those are the basics. I checked with Dad and he did tell me that the Eastern cougar IS a protected species under the ESA throughout the US and Canada. (He stays pretty up on all this stuff.) Therefore, whether one is a “hunter” or not, as the Easter cougar is a protected species, one would still be “poaching” Eastern cougars, not “hunting” them. I did check online at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/ECougar/ and it still shows it has protected status. I don’t know what local/state laws there are on the big cat, though. I would imagine there would be a fine from the FWS regardless of local/state laws since it is on the endangered list.

    I will add that I live in central Alabama and that about 18 years ago our neighbor across the street claimed he saw a cougar drinking from the stream in his front yard early one morning and within the next few weeks I saw the backside of one disappearing in the brush behind our house heading up the hill late in the afternoon. We did call the Fish & Wildlife and a game warden came out and dismissed us both as loons. He claimed we were seeing coyotes or bobcats. Now, I may have been a teenage girl at the time, but I had been out in the woods with my dad and brothers enough to tell the difference between the tail of a mangy coyote and a cougar, much less a lil ole bobcat. This thing was bigger than our Irish Setter with a long “cat” tail, not a canine tail. Not a month later, my stepfather and I were fishing from the bank at a pond about 2 blocks down the road (late afternoon) and we heard it. (Again, I know what a bobcat sounds like and this was NOT a bobcat.) Some of the local guys that had livestock had some missing calves during that time and claimed it was due to a big cat. Eventually, it all stopped and we assumed the cougar moved on, but in all there were at least a dozen people that saw it that year and each time we were all told we were crazy. I quit roaming through the woods alone after that and always kept a rifle or sidearm with me when I took my horse out after that just to be safe.

    I know too many hunters that claimed to have seen/heard them. My dad and his brother both have seen them on rare occasions when growing up when they were out hunting.

    Loren, you do a wonderful job and it’s always a pleasure to stop by catch up on some interesting topics and conversations.

  18. stratterbrain responds:

    Shelley,
    Regarding the killing of coyotes, woodshucks/groundhogs, and certain other species: they may be regarded as nuisance/pest species in your state. In Virginia, those animals listed as nuisance/pest species (“varmints”) can be culled with impunity, without limit, without the limitation of hunting seasons, on private land. On public hunting lands, they may only be killed during times when it is legal to hunt other legally recognized game animals. In other words,the people killing these animals whenever they want to may not be violating any laws. Game laws can be very confusing. Some hunting seasons even vary from county to county here in Virginia, so a person has to be very careful/knowledgeable of these regulations so as to not get into trouble. Seasons, bag limits, and even legal species vary not only from county to county, but East and West of the Blue Ridge as well. I am not attacking you, only attempting to help you understand that some things that may not seem right to you may be perfectly legal in your state (Indiana?). I have a daughter who lives in Louisville, Ky, just across the Ohio river from Indiana, and I look forward to visiting the other side of the river sometime.

  19. bubbles responds:

    Hi! I’m from Randolph County and do remember when the puma was killed by a train, I think our local paper had a picture of it. I also think another one was killed not long after.. not sure. Hunters have reported seeing pumas and bobcats on cameras meant to track deer.

  20. Shelley responds:

    No, I am in southern IL. I can understand why some of these people think that these varmints can be continually killed, as many eat crops and cause problems for farmers. But we don’t have the kind of livestock around here that coyotes and other meat eaters would be serious pests. The major effect that coyotes have on people around here is to kill outdoor pets. We all hate that and wish they would kill deer, mice and those other varmints. There are a couple of raccoons that I would like to get rid of, for raiding my bird feeder every night this winter. But I would never do that. The animus around here seems to be to kill off anything wild so that this area will become more gentrified. [Although I hear that lots of nice upper class suburbs have raccoons and coyotes.]

    Plus they like to attract hunters from all over–it’s the major tourist industry still. [Goose hunting used to be huge until the geese stopped coming here.]

    I was not so much against hunting as wondering what the law is around here. If there are cougars and bobcats around here, there are not many, and I don’t want to hear about people just killing them because they might be dangerous. I’m sure an animal the size of Bigfoot [or the Murphysboro Swamp thing] could do serious damage to a human if cornered, and might eat cats, dogs or livestock, I’d hate to think of it being legal to kill one.

  21. Porkchop responds:

    Directly from

    http://www.mdc.mo.gov/landown/wild/nuisance/

    “Deer, turkey, black bears and endangered species that are causing damage may be killed only with the permission of an agent of the department and by methods authorized by him/her. Mountain lions attacking or killing livestock or domestic animals, or attacking human beings, may be killed without prior permission, but the kill must be reported immediately to an agent of the department and the mountain lion carcass must be surrendered to him/her within twenty-four (24) hours.”

    This was surprising: Pretty explicit for a govt that doesn’t believe it has a resident Mountain Lion population, huh? Page also mentions coyotes, deer, and feral hogs as nuisance animals.

  22. John A. Lutz responds:

    I’d like to add a few cents to the controversy of cougars being killed in the east & NOT only in Illinois.
    In 1997, a young female cougar was struck & killed by a truck on Hippo Hill in Floyd Co, Kentucky. Back then, Ky Wildlife Officials were more friendly and Dr. Steve Thomas even sent our Eastern Puma Research Network, photographs of the dead black spotted cub.

    Since the mid-1960s, we have gathered considerable hard evidence of known or confirmed cougars/mountain lions in 14 of the 26 states east of the Mississippi River. The photographic evidence from area citizens and trained law enforcement observers proves big cats are continuing to present themselves crossing fields, pastures & roads in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.
    NOT one wildlife official in any of these states has ever claimed “they have known cougar or mountain lion populations within their borders”.
    Recently, a retired USDA biochemist when reviewing an old 1950s map of the Mononglahela National Forest in West Virginia, found 61 reference listings to cougars, mountain lions, panthers or wildcats with names identifying creeks, runs, rivers, hollows, valleys, knobs or mountains. Sightings of the large cats mentioned continue to this day in the areas that note such names….a good indication, repeated generations of cougars have inhabited these localities since the days of the early pioneers or settlers.



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