The recent social media posting of what was thought to be an image of a mountain lion in Prairie du Rocher brought skepticism from the game warden serving this area.
“I kind of have my doubts,” Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police Officer Don Schachner told the Republic-Times.
Modoc resident Frank Melliere shared what was claimed to be a trail camera photo of a mountain lion seen this past fall in Prairie du Rocher to his Facebook page, resulting in many reactions on the social media platform.
Melliere said a Prairie du Rocher man sent him the photo, which was supposedly taken by that man’s friend.
The photo, which has since been deleted from Melliere’s Facebook page, was viewed by Schachner, who expressed his doubts that it was a mountain lion.
Schachner said the legs of the animal photographed seem “way too thin” to be that of a mountain lion, and the tail of the animal seems to have been superimposed.
“The photo is not too convincing,” he said.
He said that while bobcats are commonly seen in this region, it’s possible but “highly improbable” to see mountain lions in Illinois.
“It’s not impossible to see one in Illinois, but it’s extremely rare,” Schachner said. “If you see a mountain lion, go and buy yourself a lottery ticket, too.”
Schachner said he’ll get calls from people throughout the area who claim to have an image of a mountain lion on their security footage, only for it to turn out to be just the common house cat.
“You have to take into context the object, quality of photo and other items in the picture,” he said.
While there have been multiple sightings confirmed in Missouri in recent years, Schachner said only six confirmed mountain lions were reported killed in Illinois since 2000.
Mountain lion sightings are confirmed only if there are tracks, a body or a photo.
Most of the Midwest’s wandering cougars are typically young males dispersing from western portions of the Dakotas, such as the Black Hills, seeking a female to mate with.
“They can cover some insane distances,” Schachner said.
In 2000, Schachner said a mountain lion was killed in Randolph County near Chester.
Schachner said the closest he’s come to confirming a local mountain lion sighting in recent years came about 10-12 years ago.
He said a male teenager struck with his vehicle what may have been a mountain lion on Route 156 near the Monroe County Fairgrounds, but Schachner was not able to verify the type of animal.
The boy took a grainy cell phone image of the animal on the side of the road, which Schachner viewed.
“If he was being honest and did actually take that photo… yeah, he hit a mountain lion,” Schachner said.
Schachner went to the crash site, but the animal that was struck had apparently regained consciousness and was no longer there. There was no blood to collect at the scene, Schachner added, and three small hairs collected from the boy’s vehicle were tested at Southern Illinois University Carbondale but the results were not conclusive.