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Cougars are on the prowl in Illinois once again

Some cougars seem be making Illinois their home away from home. | FILE PHOTO

Some cougars seem to be making Illinois their home away from home. | FILE PHOTO

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The Lake County Audubon Society will have Chris Rollins, regional land manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, as its speaker on Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the second-floor meeting room of the Libertyville Village Hall, 118 W. Cook Street.

He will present an overview of the current systems, programs, and status of Illinois’ state parks and budget. He will also discuss current initiatives to establish new, dedicated sources of funding for DNR. This program should be of special interest since Illinois’ financial issues have negatively affected the state-park system.

The Office of Land Management manages and maintains 324 state-owned and leased state parks, fish and wildlife areas, state forests, state trails, natural areas and recreational sites, with more than 45 million visits annualy.

Chris Rollins is a native of Quincy (Illinois/Missouri border). He has had a life-long interest in the outdoors, hunting, fishing, conservation, and park development. The 90-minute meeting is free and open to the public.

Bird houses will be available for sale there for the holidays.

Updated: December 25, 2012 6:06AM

Last week, we were enthralled with coyotes and wolves. This week, we touch on the cougar — an animal that has been making its way north, south, east and west of South Dakota for years now.

This month in southern Illinois, two more trail-camera photographs of cougars were confirmed by the Illinois Department of Conservation, making four cougars on camera so far this year.

Most of the images were caught when hunters put cameras off trails in the hopes of tracking deer which they hoped to harvest.

I subscribe to Ken Miller’s Cougar Network Breaking News, which is kind of a catch-all for all the cougar sightings outside South Dakota. Miller is a retired high-tech entrepreneur, having founded or co-founded three high-tech companies in the computer, data networking and software fields.

He teamed up with Dr. Clay Nielsen, an assistant professor of Forest Wildlife in the Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, Department of Forestry, and Center for Ecology at Southern Illinois University.

The site’s documentation is evidence based on strict criteria supplied by wildlife officials in the United States and Canada and other wildlife observers. They recently uncovered a hoax where someone retouched an old trail camera photo and tried to pass it off as new, only someone noticed and alerted the network so they could correct it.

As you all may remember, we had a lot of cougar sightings here in Lake County in 2008, made by a county board member, a North Chicago police officer, and other residents from Antioch to the North Shore.

Here in the newsroom, we always took them with a grain of salt. I wanted to believe, but we needed pictures.

As you might remember, a cougar was shot in April of that year near a grade school in Roscoe Village on the north side of Chicago. Through DNA, they were able to document that cougar was the same spotted near Lake Geneva where some hair was caught on some wire, which they used in the DNA test.

No way that cougar got to Chicago without passing through Lake County, so all those people who spotted what they thought was a cougar could have been absolutely right. I interviewed that North Chicago police officer and he had no doubt in his mind.

So now, this year, we’ve had some reports in Glencoe and Northfield. I am not so fast to dismiss these sightings anymore. To help with identification, you can go to the Cougar Network’s Puma Field Guide, which includes natural history information and clues to identifying tracks. The guide is available online at

And let’s start placing more trail cameras out there, especially if you live near a creek or river. Cougars stay close to them.

Cougars love deer and, of course, we have a lot here in Illinois. The IDNR said hunters harvested 72,111 deer from Nov. 16-18. The second part of the season is Nov. 29 to Dec. 2. Last year, hunters only bagged 66,501 deer.

Even in Lake County, the harvest was up from six in 2011 to nine in 2012. The most successful county was Pike County with 2,108 deer harvested. And you wonder why cougars might like the Land of Lincoln?

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