Mountain lion struck and killed on I-88 in DeKalb County likely came from out west, INDR say

Leah Hope Image
Wednesday, October 19, 2022
Where did the DeKalb mountain lion come from?
Mountain lions in Illinois are exceedingly rare; only eight have been documented in the last 20 years. So where did the one struck and killed on I-88 in DeKalb come from?

DEKALB COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) -- Mountain lions, or cougars, are rare in Illinois. Illinois Department of Natural Resources say only eight of the solitary predators have been found in Illinois in the last 20 years. That includes the one that was struck and killed by a vehicle on I-88 in DeKalb County on Sunday.

"We believe it was an individual that was reported to us out of Whiteside County that was captured on a trail camera on private property," said Nate Grinder, wildlife biologist with the IDNR.

Grinder said a necropsy and DNA tracing are being done now, and the mountain lion likely came from a population out west.

"At this point, we are just getting those young male indiivudals dispersing across the landscape in search of others, and they aren't finding any because they are not here. It's kind of a perilous journey for them," Grinder said.

Mountain lions were eliminated from Illinois prior to the 1870s due to habitat loss and overharvest, according to IDNR. Although extremely rare in Illinois, mountain lion sightings have been confirmed in Illinois during the past few decades.

In 2008, a 150-pound mountain lion was shot and killed by police in an alley in the Roscoe Village neighborhood on Chicago's North Side. That animal was traced by DNA to a population in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

INDR said the agency is currently tracking a mountain lion from Nebraska with a GPS monitor in Illinois. Grinder said it's unlikely it would want any contact with humans, but if you encounter a mountain lion you should get big and back away.

"Stand tall, look large, keep your eye on the animal and slowly back away, keeping your eye on the animal," Grinder advised. "Don't run away, don't try and intimidate the animal. They really don't want anything to do with people."

IDNR officials are reminding the public that it is unlawful to hunt, kill, or harass mountain lions unless they pose an imminent threat to a person or property.