Highland Park Warns of Possible Cougar Sighting | NBC Chicago

Highland Park Warns of Possible Cougar Sighting

Resident reports seeing large tan cat in Old Elm Park



    (Published Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012)

    Highland Park is on the lookout for a big cat.

    City officials are warning residents that a cougar may have been spotted November 25 in Old Elm Park.

    An individual reported seeing a "large, tan, feline-type animal" walking along the tree line on the west side of the park, but police were not able to identify any tracks or other evidence.

    Residents are urged to be on guard, particularly with small children and pets.

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    The big cats aren't fond of humans and are wide-ranging animals. Wildlife experts say it wouldn't be unusual for an adult male to travel up to 15 miles in a single day.

    "They roam across a very large area, sometimes hundreds of square miles, in search of the amount of prey that they need to survive," explained Dr. Seth Magle with the Lincoln Park Zoo.

    Authorities believe a cougar shot four years ago on Chicago's northwest side traveled from as far away as the Dakotas.

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    "They're losing their natural habitats, so they're seeking out new a habitat and the cities keep getting bigger," said Magle.

    There have been several possible cougar sightings in suburban Chicago this year, including unconfirmed sightings in Winnetka and Glencoe. Only three confirmed cases have been documented since the 1990s in the Chicago area, however four sightings have been confirmed in the state this year.

    Officials say there are no sustained populations of cougars in Illinois after they were eliminated in 1850s, however it's possible the transient animals could have traveled from Wyoming or the Dakotas. Cougars typically avoid populated areas and are likely looking for food. Deer are their main prey.

    The animals are deterred by dogs, bright lights, flashing white light as well as music. Residents are advised to call 911 immediately to report any additional sightings.