Illinois

There are no known cougar populations in Illinois.

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. One confirmed sighting occurred in April of 2009 in the Chicago neighborhood of Roscoe Village. The cougar was killed by police officers and widely believed to have come from outside the state. Previously, the last sighting had been 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.

In 2013, a cougar – possibly dispersing all the way from the Black Hills of South Dakota – was killed in Morrison, about 130 miles west of Chicago. In 2014, the Illinois legislature voted to add cougars (along with black bears and wolves) to the state protected species list, possibly paving the way for recolonization and increased tolerance.

Current Advocacy Opportunities:

Head to our Policy Watch page to see current opportunities.

Past Advocacy Opportunities:

HB 352 – Illinois Bobcats need our help!

  • Support Grand Teton National Park’s Preferred Alternative for Moose-Wilson

     • The Cougar Fund
  • Cougars Working Their Way Back Into Midwest

     • The Cougar Fund
  • Illinois Bobcats need your help!

     • The Cougar Fund
  • Social media buzz about cougar in Illinois is a hoax

     • The Cougar Fund

    A fake story claiming USFWS personnel killed a mountain lion in Illinois is currently making the rounds on various social media platforms. While the post was cleverly written, the choice of photo to attach to the story was not: the alleged "USFWS officers" were wearing Kentucky Fish and Wildlife uniforms!

  • Experts: Cougars Could Return to Northeast

     • The Cougar Fund

    Many biologists agree that the northeast US possesses large tracts of suitable habitat for the cats. Now, some believe that recent long-distance dispersals suggest cougars are capable of recolonizing northeastern states they have long been extirpated from.

  • How Illinois is preparing for large carnivores

     • The Cougar Fund

    Illinois recently added mountain lions, black bears, and grey wolves to the state's list of protected species, as they prepare for recolonization.