Possible cougar sighting in DuPage forest preserve
Authorities are investigating unconfirmed reports of a cougar sighting at the East Branch Forest Preserve just outside Glendale Heights, officials said late Friday.
A visitor on Friday morning reported seeing what looked like a cougar on the west side of the preserve, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County officials said. A forest preserve police officer who responded to the call also reported seeing an animal that looked like a cougar.
Officials from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the forest preserve district who arrived shortly afterward were unable to confirm the sighting. The district is placing trail cameras at the site.
The preserve, including its off-leash dog area, will remain open, but officials have posted signs and notified off-leash dog permit holders of the possible sightings.
"If it was a cougar, it is highly likely it was a young adult searching for a mate or suitable habitat and was just passing through," district ecologist Brian Kraskiewisz said in a written statement. "Many wildlife species move through the landscape using passageways such as river corridors and railroad tracks, both of which are present at East Branch."
A cougar weighs between 70 and 240 pounds and has a tan or tawny coat with white or cream-colored chin, undersides and inside of legs. The backs of its rounded ears are solid black to dark gray. Its thick black-tipped tail can be as long as half its total body length.
Cougars were eliminated in Illinois by 1870, but in recent years, a handful of transient lone animals have been found here. Cougars are a protected species in Illinois.
Forest preserve visitors who think they see a cougar should not approach it. They should keep pets near them as they slowly leave the area and report sightings to the IDNR at (847) 608-3100. For safety concerns, call the forest preserve police at (630) 933-7240.