Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 19th, 2010
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,  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.