Illinois DNR Says Cougar Rumors are False

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The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is addressing recent internet rumors claiming photographic evidence of cougars in Illinois. These photos are being falsely identified as being taken in Illinois – in many cases claiming to be taken near Findlay in Shelby County. The photos are real, but appear to have been taken in 2001 or 2002 in Lander, Wyoming where cougars are common. The internet rumors have been circulating throughout Illinois via email and usually misidentify the location of the photos.

"While it is not completely impossible for a cougar to be found in Illinois, sighting of a wild one is highly unlikely," said Acting IDNR Director Sam Flood. "Wild cougars have been found in neighboring states but again, very, very rarely."

Flood also addressed rumors sometimes mentioned in these hoax emails that the IDNR is releasing these animals into the Illinois ecosystem.

"It is absolutely not true that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is releasing cougars anywhere in the state for any reason," Flood said.

Below are a few links that may help avoid confusion about the validity of these photographs. One is a link to a website devoted to correcting internet rumors, and the other is a link to a report by a Missouri Department of Conservation biologist which also addresses the origins of these photos.

Snopes
CougarNet PDF file

The IDNR urges people who have been sent photos of cougars claiming to have been taken in Illinois to compare them with ones found in the links above.

While the IDNR does investigate several alleged cougar sightings each year, most if not all turn out to be a case of mistaken identity. The animals most often mistaken for cougars are coyotes, bobcats, or large domestic dogs or cats.

Actual cougar sightings in Illinois are few and far between. The last cougar found in Illinois was in December of 2004 in Mercer County. It was found already dead, apparently shot with an arrow. Another cougar was found dead after it was hit by a train in Randolph County in July of 2000. Prior to 2000, the last verified record of a cougar in Illinois was from Alexander County in 1862.