mountain lionFans of the Kane Country Cougars, an American Association of Professional baseball team in Geneva, will be happy to hear their mascot is coming back to the state. Cougars, also known as pumas or mountain lions, have had an increase in sightings in Illinois over recent years.

Mountain lions were all but extinct in Illinois, having been eradicated from the state prior to the 1870s due to habitat loss and overharvesting, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. IDNR has reported only eight mountain lions have been found in Illinois in the last 20 years – two of the eight being in recent years. One was hit and killed on a highway in DeKalb County. The mountain lion’s body has been sent to the University of Illinois to be studied. It is believed this mountain lion migrated somewhere from the west. IDNR is currently tracking the second mountain lion in Illinois. This cougar is from Nebraska and has a GPS monitor. Sightings of these animals are becoming more frequent after having been absent from the state for so long. However, while mountain lions might sound intimidating, IDNR urges residents not to worry.

Mountain lions are unlikely to make contact with or harm humans. If someone comes across one of these cats, it is suggested to stand tall, look large, keep your eye on the animal, and slowly back away. It is not advised to run or try to intimidate them, they will generally ignore people if people ignore them. IDNR officials are also reminding the public that it is illegal to hunt, kill or harass mountain lions unless they pose an imminent threat. Cougars have been protected in Illinois since 2015.

If you want more information about the second mountain lion in Illinois, who originated from Nebraska, or if you want to report a sighting of another possible cat, you can do so here.