Escaped African serval cat dies after its capture in Vernon Hills neighborhood

An escaped serval cat native to Africa that was on the loose in a Vernon Hills neighborhood Saturday night died from injuries sustained after its capture, police said.

The animal, initially misidentified as a bobcat, was spotted in the village's Grosse Pointe neighborhood at about 7:16 p.m., Vernon Hills Deputy Police Chief Shannon Holubetz said.

A photograph a witness had snapped helped the Illinois Department of Natural Resources properly identify it later as a serval, an African species.

That led officers to believe they were not looking for a wild animal that had roamed into the area, but a domesticated exotic pet, Holubetz said.

Online information about the species identifies it as a slender cat standing 21 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder, weighing 20 to 40 pounds as an adult, with a small head, large ears and the longest legs of any cat species relative to its body.

While searching, officers came across others who appeared to be looking for something. They turned out to be the owners, Holubetz said. With the owners' assistance, the skittish animal was captured at about 10 p.m. several hundred feet from its home.

"It appears as though this animal escaped from their yard while they were out," Holubetz said.

Though the serval later died of injuries, no person or animal appeared to have been harmed by it.

The police department sent out an alert on social media Saturday night saying the cat had been seen in the Grosse Pointe neighborhood. Residents were urged to keep an eye on their pets, particularly at night.

Accompanying social media posts Saturday chronicled a number of resident encounters with the animal that almost immediately discounted its initial identification as a bobcat.

One person urged fellow residents to take the alert seriously, describing the cat as aggressive and unafraid when encountering it while walking dogs with a neighbor. The dog walkers started yelling and were let inside by some nearby neighbors.

Though the matter was over by Sunday, police are still looking into the legality and protocols of keeping such an animal, Holubetz said.

An African serval cat, like this one photographed in Pennsylvania in 2017, died after its capture in Vernon Hills. It had escaped from a nearby property Saturday night, police said. Tim Leedy/Reading Eagle via AP
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