Cougar Tracks? Large Dog Tracks? You Be the Judge of These Animal Tracks Discovered in Arlington Heights


VIDEO of animal tracks discovered on the north side of Arlington Heights on Monday, February 27, 2012 showing a large pawprint that is wider than long in a ‘direct register’ gait with long stride.

Cougar sightings were reported in Lake Forest in October 2011, and a stray cougar was shot in Chicago in 2008. That makes the discovery of these animal tracks in Arlington Heights very interesting.

The video (above) shows animal tracks that were discovered Monday, February 27, 2012 about 2:00 p.m. The stride of the tracks measures a distance of over three feet. According to A Field Guide to Mammal Tracking in Western America (page 45), the stride of a mountain lion is 40 inches. The tracks might have been double tracks representing the animal’s forefoot and hindfoot strike into the snow in approximately the same area. This gives the look of one huge pawprint. Cougars are known to walk with their hind feet directly landing inside where their front feet landed. The gait is called direct register, and is especially used by cougars when moving in deep snow. However, dogs are also known to move in a direct register gait.

The length of the pawprint or pawprints area was about 4-5 inches front-to-back and almost eight inches wide. Mountain lions and cougars are known to have paw prints that are wider than their length, or more round than egg-shaped like a coyote or dog. What’s remarkable about the tracks is how large the animal must have been to have a stride of over three feet without being in a run or gallop.

The stride is too long for a fox (which is only about 10 inches), and the tracks don’t look like the shape that comes from a coyote. The roundness of the pawprint and the size are consistent with a cougar, mountain lion or very large dog. The pawprint also appears to have the large, possibly three-lobed heel pad that is characteristic of a cougar.

Cougar photographed by an employee of the United State Department of Agriculture.

Coyote or dog tracks with the combined forefoot/hindfoot impression in the stride.

Apparent cougar tracks in Sunshine Canyon in Colorado.

More clearly defined cougar tracks in Colorado.

Cougars are also known as mountain lions, and are mammals that are members of the family Flidae — native to the Americas. Cougars are similar to house cats, but are about the size of adult humans. Primary food sources of cougars include deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep, as well as domestic cattle, horses and sheep. Cougars will also eat rodents. Cougars are solitary, reclusive cats and usually avoid people, but attacks on humans have been known to occur.

On Tuesday February 8, 2012 Mount Prospect police received a single report of a large cat — not a normal house cat — near Elmhurst Road and Dempster Road.

In October 2011 there were several sightings of a cougar or mountain lion in the Conway Farms subdivision of Lake Forest, just east of Chicago Bears headquarters, Halas Hall. Some reports of suspicious tracks in the mud have also been reported in the Lake Forest area.

On April 14, 2008 Chicago police shot and killed a cougar on the north side of Chicago in the Roscoe Village neighborhood less than one mile west of Wrigleyville. DNA tests were consistent with cougars from the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Check out the images from Google searches linked below, and tell us what you think below in the comments section.

Google image search for ‘coyote tracks’ …

Google image search for ‘fox tracks’ …

Google image search for ‘fox tracks’ …

Google image search for ‘mountain lion tracks’ …

Cougar and tracks in captivity.

Tracks at 1:29.

Missouri Department of Conservation Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer discusses the markings on the paw of a sedated Mountain lion. This male cougar was released at Current River Conservation Area after it was mistakenly live trapped by a Centerville, Mo., trapper. It weighed 122 pounds and was estimated to be two years old.

See also …
See also …
Cougar Shot in Chicago Roscoe Village Neighborhood Near Hamilton, Hoyne and Roscoe (MAP LOCATION)

Cougar? Mountain Lion? Large Cat Reported Near Elmhurst and Dempster, Mount Prospect

Alderleaf Wilderness College Mountain Lion Tracks and Sign An Online Guide

Info on gait and gallop, animals walking, running …

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  1. That’s a beautiful and a huge animal! Comparing to the other videos it’s possible they r cougar tracks. Though would be awkward to see a cougar in AH, but everything is possible.

  2. It would be great if you could indicate where the sitings are. First, residents can be on alert to protect themselves and small pets. Second, residents can keep a look out in the area to collect more evidence or dismiss the claim.

  3. The article is not a claim. The title clearly mentions large dog or cougar ‘you be the judge.’ As far as being alert for protection, that doesn’t hang on the lack of a specific sighting location in this article. If anyone pays attention to any of the media in Chicagoland, or some government alerts, they should be well aware to protect small pets or their children from coyotes, which have had verified sightings in Arlington Heights and several other suburbs over the years. Now enter the cougar in recent years. Cougars have a very large range as indicated by the article’s mention of DNA tests on the Chicago cougar of 2008 that indicated the cougar’s lineage was consistent with cougars from the Black Hills of South Dakota. The same year there were other sightings of a cougar in north suburbs of Chicago. Within the last year, the sightings in Lake Forest, and Mount Prospect, if true, also indicate, possibly if its the same cougar, a pretty good short range distance across Chicagoland. The owner of the property where the tracks were discovered wanted to remain anonymous, and have the exact location of the discovery of the tracks private. “North Arlington Heights” is a good enough alert for an animal with this kind of range. If you read The Cardinal regularly you’d have to agree the location of incidents is usually published to the block, at least.

  4. What a find! Congrats.
    Looking down the trail–it does not appear to be a diagonal pattern. The tracks (front and rear foot) do no appear to be a direct register. The tracks land beside each other somewhat.

    Putting these two clues together, the gate is a faster than the regular walking gate. It still may well be the cat. The gate pattern appears to be one where the front feet land on one side (i.e. left or right) and the rear on the other side. So it will not look like a diagonal pattern necessarily. When you see a dog walking fast its rear end tends to swing out to one side–creating the pattern I mentioned.

    I see no sign of nail marks and if it is rather round and not oval it likely is a cat. I also could not make out the large heel pad to help with the identification of a cat. This is a trail I would love to follow for more clues!

    All the best
    Wilderness Rhythms

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