SPRINGFIELD, Ill (WCIA) — Mountain lions in Illinois are rare, with only eight confirmed sightings in the last 20 years. But the latest sighting was on Wednesday in western Springfield.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said it is monitoring a mountain lion equipped with a GPS collar that has been traveling through the state in recent weeks. Satellites detected the animal’s presence in Springfield on Wednesday and officials are informing people living in the area and answering questions.
This latest sighting comes only ten days after another mountain lion was hit and killed by a car on Oct. 16 in DeKalb County. The carcass was brought to the University of Illinois for analysis and future use in education.
The IDNR said that mountain lions were eliminated from Illinois in the 1870s due to habitat loss and overharvesting. The ones that are seen in Illinois nowadays usually travel long distances to get here.
The mountain lion in Springfield is no exception; it was captured and fitted with the collar in Nebraska by the state’s Game and Parks Commission in November of 2021 as part of an ongoing research project. The IDNR said it is working with biologists in Nebraska to monitor the animal as it crosses Illinois.
In the year since being fitted with the collar, the mountain lion traveled through the remainder of Nebraska and all of Iowa to arrive in Illinois. Data from the collar showed that it was previously in McDonough and Cass Counties.
There have been no reported conflicts between humans and this mountain lion. That includes when it passed through the outskirts of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Officials are urging people to leave the animal alone. Mountain lions are protected creatures in Illinois, and it is unlawful to harass, harm or kill them unless they pose an imminent threat to a person or property. That, however, rarely happens.
If people encounter the mountain lion and he does not flee immediately, they are warned not to run, instead slowly backing away while keeping an eye on the animal. IDNR officials said it is best to stand tall, wave your arms, throw rocks and other objects and yell.
More information about mountain lions can be found on the IDNR website.