Mountain Lion In Illinois: Everything You Need To Know

Mountain Lion In Illinois

When you see an animal with a long, thick tail measuring about 40 inches, and a tan or tawny coat, don’t mistake them for dog. 

These are Mountain lions, one of the most magnificent creatures to live on earth. Though Illinois is not particularly known for its wildlife like other states, there are a few wildlife species like the mountain lion that can be spotted in the state.

While it’s rare to spot a mountain lion in Illinois, studying its physical characteristics, and behavior keeps us safe in case we encounter any of its kind in the future. 

Below I’ve explained all the things you need to know about the Mountain Lion In Illinois.

Are There Mountain Lions in Illinois?

No, currently, there is no established population of mountain lions in the state of Illinois. However, there have been few mountain lions sighted in parts of Illinois which mostly are from individuals dispersing from nearby states.

Historically, mountain lions are known to have existed throughout the state. While it’s difficult to precisely tell their range, they are believed to have lived in various habitats across the state like forests, prairies, and river valleys. 

They were a native species of Illinois before succumbing to extinction due to extensive hunting and habitat loss. By the late 1800s, most of these creatures were either hunted and killed or dispersed to nearby states. 

There have been some efforts to reintroduce mountain lions into their historic range. However, this didn’t end in positive results. As the wildlife population at a place isn’t fixed and may change as time passes, even Illinois may inhabit mountain lions in the future as it did in the past.

How Many Mountain Lions Are There in Illinois?

As per the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, there is no breeding population of mountain lions in the state.

While there have been about 8 confirmed sightings of mountain lions in the past 20 years, these could easily be individuals dispersing from neighboring states like Wisconsin, Iowa, or Missouri. It is important to note that these sightings are sporadic and cannot be relied on to indicate a stable population.

The latest mountain lion sighting occurred in October 2022, in western Illinois. This mountain lion has a GPS attached by the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission as a part of population survey research. 

As the Illinois Department of Natural Resources tracked the individual, it was found to be potentially dangerous to humans as it reached Springfield where it was tranquilized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services. It was later relocated to Exotic Feline Rescue Centre Point in Indiana. 

What Big Cats Live in Illinois?

Mountain Lion In Illinois

Big cats refer to the 5 living species of the genus Panthera which include tiger, lion, jaguar, leopard, and snow leopard including non-pantherine cheetah and cougar.

Other than Mountain lions which are known also as cougars, the state isn’t native to any other big cats. While even mountain lions aren’t found much in the state, other big cats can be however found in captivity.

Big cats like African lions, tigers, and leopards can be found as captives in Zoos, sanctuaries, or wildlife rescue facilities in Illinois. Additionally, they may even be found with private exotic owners.

Also Check Our Guide On Mountain Lions IN US

Can You Shoot a Mountain Lion in Illinois?

No, you cannot shoot a mountain lion in Illinois. As of 2015, mountain lions are listed as protected and therefore cannot be harmed, hilled, haunted, or harassed. However, an exception to this is when a person’s life or property is threatened by these majestic creatures. 

If you feel that your property or life is in danger due to a mountain lion, you need to report to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, whose authorities will take the required actions to support you.

Can You Own a Mountain Lion in Illinois?

No, you cannot own a mountain lion in Illinois without special permits and licenses. 

While the permits and licenses are issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Dangerous Animal Act regulates the possession and ownership of wild animals like mountain lions and other big cats.

Under the act, only zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, and rescue shelters are allowed to possess mountain lions. However, it is crucial to note that these laws change from time to time, and before deciding to own an exotic/wild animal, always consult with the state department or local authorities to get the latest accurate information.

As mentioned before, there might be exceptions to the prohibition of possessing exotic/wild animals, however, it is very dangerous to do so. 

Wild animals even if trained in captivity will have their inherent characteristics passed on to them by evolution. This will make them harder to control which would leave them to inhibit dangerous behaviors which are a threat to both the owners and their locality. 

Additionally, these wild animals require special care including frequent visitations to vets, round-the-clock monitoring, etc.

While the ownership of an exotic animal may sound cool and exciting, it isn’t safe to do so. Therefore, try to see them from a distance either by chance or in zoos where we are safe for each other.

Also Check Our Guide On Wolves In Illinois


And that was everything you need to know about the Mountain Lions in Illinois. I hope this article was answered all your queries.

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