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Tuesday, April 8, 2014 12:40 pm

Cougar, cougar, shining bright

 In the fall of 2012, I remarked (“They’re b-a-a-a-c-k”) on video evidence that confirmed the presence in a Morgan County woods of an adult cougar. The animal was then only the fourth known to have been sighted in Illinois since the 1870s, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. I went on to say


The DNR staff are good scientists who don’t let their conclusions get ahead of their evidence. But less-than-scientific evidence of the big cat’s presence has been piling up for years, and for years was dismissed by wildlife experts. In deep southern Illinois, for instance, cougars are seen more often than sober college students. One would think that it was be easier to mistake a Democrat for a doughnut than to mistake a dog for a cat but lots of people do. Most of the animals reported as cougars in Illinois have probably been coyotes or feral dogs. However, the habitat and the food supply is there, so why shouldn’t the cats be there? 

 

Why indeed? Cougar sightings are increasingly common in the Chicago area. Last fall, an IDNR Conservation officer killed one of the big cats in Whiteside County. (No Jungle Jim, he; he shot it while cowered in a concrete pipe beneath a corncrib.) 

State senator Linda Holmes introduced SB3049 to amend the wildlife code to include wolves, bears and mountain lions on the list of protected species. Why are they not there now? Because each – log native in Illinois when the pale-faces arrived -- was exterminated in Illinois in the 19th century, and have since are or will soon be resident in this state, having migrated from outside it.

The anti-immigrant faction will squawk, but Holmes’ bill would not bar Illinoisans “whose person or property is in imminent danger” from reducing to a throw rug any of these grand manifestations of nature’s wisdom. The bill would at least bar Illinoisans from legally doing so for fun or some misplaced notion that Illinois belongs to only one species. 

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