Janesville residents report seeing cougar in neighborhood on city's southwest side

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Angel Idowu
Monday, June 16, 2014

JANESVILLE--Ashli and Sean Stacy were outside their Janesville home watering plants Sunday evening when they thought they spotted a deer.

When the animal turned, they could tell it was no deer.

“When we first saw it, it had it's back to us, so we weren't sure if it was a deer or not. Then it turned broadside, and we knew that it was a cougar," Ashli said.

It took the couple a second to gather themselves before they ran to get the camcorder from inside their home at 3490 Tennyson Drive.

“Should I get the camera or should I get the neighbor?” Ashli said Sean yelled before he finally grabbed the video camera and began recording.

With the front door open, Sean stood behind the screen door to get a short video of the cougar as it made its way down the tree line about 300 yards from their home.

“It didn't seem to be in a hurry,” Ashli said. “It just walked slowly towards Loch Lomond Park along the tree line, so it was very easy to see. Eventually, we lost it.”

That's when Sean decided it was time to take matters into his own hands.

In just his socks, Sean and a neighbor jumped into their car and drove along the tree line trying to spot which direction the cat was headed to make sure it didn't wander into another neighborhood.

They couldn't find it.

“It's scary that this cougar was here,” Ashli said.

Their home is on the far southwest side of Janesville.

“This is a family neighborhood, and there are very few fences up. Everyone here has at least one child and a pet of some sort that play in the park it was walking towards," Ashli said.

"The path it walked along is a path people walk their dogs on everyday. Then right through the trees is another large series of houses. It's definitely raised some concern in regards to the safety of our young daughter," she said.

The cougar might have been the same one seen in Green County two weeks ago, said Brian Buenzow, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife technician stationed in Janesville.

“These cougars are looking for territory,” Buenzow said. “The closest population of cougars is North and South Dakota, which is where they are coming from. Heading east, they are in search of their own territory with lots of food. There have only been male sightings of these cougars.”

Cougars are said to be from the Black Hills region of South Dakota looking to expand their territory into Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

The Sunday sighting in Janesville wasn't a first for Rock County.

In January 2008, a cougar was reported on a farm outside Milton on Bowers Lake Road. The farm owner tracked the cougar to a barn, where it was found hiding in the haymow. The cougar ran away but appeared to be bleeding from it's paw.

With samples of the blood, DNR staff later were able to determine it was the same cougar shot and killed near Chicago a few weeks later. Tests showed the cougar was of the same genetic make-up as cougars from South Dakota.

In May of 2010, an Edgerton resident saw a 7-foot cat run across a trail on Glacial Hill. A month later, another was spotted while Milton residents were fishing at the east end of Rice Lake in Dane County.

The sighting Sunday comes three days after Illinois conservation police notified Rock County authorities of an American black bear seen in northern Illinois communities moving north.

Later Thursday, Clinton police received a report of a bear in Carvers Rock Park area off Highway 14 in Rock County.

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