DNR: Dead cougar in Chicago could be Milton-area cat
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials hope to compare DNA from a cougar shot Monday by police on Chicago’s North Side to DNA from a cougar spotted northeast of Milton in January.
Chicago police said an officer shot and killed a 150-pound cougar in an alley after several residents reported seeing the cat, which was more than 5 feet long.
“It’s real intriguing,” said Wisconsin DNR wildlife supervisor Doug Fendry. “I certainly would not rule out the possibility that it’s the same cougar that we’ve had in our area.”
Fendry first heard the news when a Chicago Tribune reporter called him Monday night. He later spoke with Chicago police, who told him the big cat appeared to feel threatened when officers approached, and police decided they had to shoot it.
Chicago Police Capt. Mike Ryan said in a Chicago Tribune article no officers were hurt.
“It was turning on the officers,” the Tribune quoted him as saying. “There was no way to take it into custody.”
According to the Tribune article, no one knew where the cougar came from, though Wilmette police on Saturday had received four reports of a cougar roaming that suburb, roughly 15 miles from the site of Monday’s shooting.
DNR officials last month said DNA testing showed the young male cougar seen near Milton is of North American origin and likely roamed here from the Black Hills area of South Dakota in search of new territory.
Officials confirmed in January cougar tracks near Clinton about 2 miles north of the Illinois border, and on March 7 a state conservation warden found cougar tracks northeast of Elkhorn.
“Unfortunately, it could have wandered to Chicago, not knowing where to go, (and found itself) in an unusual surrounding,” Fendry said.
Fendry will talk with his counterparts in Illinois today to get a DNA sample from the dead cougar. Those samples would be sent to a Montana lab, but it’s unknown how long testing could take, he said.
Light colorings on the dead cougar also point Fendry to thinking it could be the young cougar that has roamed here. Young cougars don’t lose their spots that quickly, so light spots would be expected on a young male cougar from South Dakota, he said.
“That kind of backs up the possibility,” he said.
While officials quoted in the Tribune article did not know the cougar’s gender, Fendry said the photos he’s seen lead him to believe it’s a male.
“It’s certainly a very viable possibility that it is (the same cougar),” Fendry said. “It could have easily traveled in that direction and found itself in harm’s way.”