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Numerous cougar reports in county since 2004

Two more reports mountalions North Shore have been reported including one HighlPark though there are still no confirmations. |

Two more reports of mountain lions in the North Shore have been reported, including one in Highland Park, though there are still no confirmations. | AP file

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Cougar watch

Lake Forest Police said things that would deter a cougar, which feeds mainly on deer, include: dogs, bright lights, flashing white lights and music.

Residents are encouraged to report sightings of suspicious animals to police immediately. Deer carcasses should also be reported.

Updated: December 24, 2011 1:48AM

Used to be, cougar sightings were cyclical, came with the change of seasons and almost never could be taken serious because there was no hard evidence.

Then April 16, 2008, happened in Chicago’s Roscoe Village neighborhood and the hundreds of people who have spotted cougars in the region were vindicated because police shot one linked genetically to a big cat spotted in Milton, Wis., northwest of Elkhorn and the popular Lake Geneva-Delavan resort area.

That mountain lion was linked to the populations of cougars in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Lake County would be hard to avoid going from there to the North Side of Chicago.

Now, the Lake Forest Police Department has received reports from residents sighting a large cat, possibly a bobcat or cougar. Both sightings were in the western portion of Lake Forest near the area of Route 60 and Interstate 94, in the Conway Farms subdivision across from the Chicago Bears practice complex.

Police said one sighting was Oct. 7 at 4:45 p.m. when a large cat was seen in a heavily wooded area. It stood still for a few minutes and left. On Oct. 13, a homeowner reported his dog was barking and pacing in the back yard at 12:15 a.m., but he never saw anything.

The area was searched the next day for evidence and police enlisted the help of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. There must be physical evidence such as a paw print, hair sample, scat sample or photo to confirm the presence of an animal.

A North Chicago police officer saw a cougar just a couple of weeks before the one was killed in Chicago. That followed a number of other reports by residents in North Chicago. The Lake County Health Department also had received sightings in northern and western Lake County during 2008.

There probably will be more because the big cats are moving into the Midwest from the West, but it’s rare to have them come this far, said Dr. Clay Nielson, director of scientific research with The Cougar Network at Southern Illinois University in downstate Carbondale.

In 2004, it was another year of cougar sightings, with some being dismissed after experts checked animal tracks. But there were so many sightings, the story made The News-Sun’s Top Ten list of stories at the end of the year.

The Health Department’s Animal Control Division in 2004 received cougar reports in Mundelein, Grayslake, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Fox Lake, Old Mill Creek, Lindenhurst and McHenry. Then Lake County Board member Sandy Cole of Grayslake sighted one near Independence Grove near Libertyville, and a Waukegan police officer ended 2004 with a night sighting on the Amstutz Expressway.

With the advent of trail cameras, confirmed sightings are heating up, with one confirmed in Indiana last year and Wisconsin wildlife authorities reported there have been seven instances of a trail camera capturing the image of a cougar in Wisconsin in the last three years.

But Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources biologists said there are only four individual cougars in Wisconsin during that time frame, meaning the same cougar was caught on different cameras.

The latest photo was taken Oct. 16 and the DNR confirmed it was a cougar Sunday. The trail camera was in Juneau County, north of the Wisconsin Dells.

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