An alert about a possible cougar sighting has been issued in northwest suburban Streamwood, reported by CBS Chicago near Route 59 and Golf Road.
A resident near Surrey Woods Park in Streamwood reported seeing a large cat-like animal cross their yard and climb up a tree. The Department of Natural Resources has replied that the incident is a probably cougar sighting.
Surrey Woods Park is just south of Sutton Road (Route 59) and Golf Road (Route 58). The neighborhood is just north of Streamwood High School, just southeast of Shoe Factory Road Prairie Nature Preserve and Carl R. Hansen Woods, and just south of Arthur L. Janura Forest Preserve. In total, the woods in the area are about 5 miles by 2 miles
There have been several cougar sightings in Chicagoland in past years. The most well-known cougar sighting was in the Roscoe Village neighborhood in April 2008. More recently, a cougar sighting was reported in the East Branch Forest Preserve District of DuPage County on Friday January 19, 2018; Brookfield, Wisconsin about 90 miles north of the northwest suburbs on February 17, 2018; and in Colgate, Wisconsin also about 90 miles north of the northwest suburbs on February 7, 2018. Cougars are known to travel great distances, especially to avoid territory of a more dominant male.
According to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, cougars are capable of leaping 30 feet from a standstill, and can jump 15 straight up a cliff wall. Presumably, cougars can leap similarly up a tree trunk.
Cougars rarely attack humans. However, cougars are reclusive, secretive, territorial and solitary, and may be more likely to attack if a human enters the cougar’s perceived territory. An important tip for residents in Chicagoland: don’t approach a dead animal, such as a deer. The dead animal could be the cougar’s prey, and the cougar could be nearby and motivated to protect it’s kill.
COUGAR DO’S and DON’TS FOR HUMANS
In cougar habitat, you should:
Hike in small groups and make enough noise to avoid surprising a cougar.
Keep your camp clean and store food and garbage in double plastic bags.
Keep small children close to the group, preferably in plain sight just ahead of you.
Do not approach dead animals, especially deer or elk; they could have been cougar prey left for a later meal.
In Cougar Encounter:
Stop, stand tall and don’t run. Pick up small children. Don’t run. A cougar’s instinct is to chase.
Do not approach the animal, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens.
Try to appear larger than the cougar. Never take your eyes off the animal or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
If the animal displays aggressive behavior, shout, wave your arms and throw rocks. The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.
If the cougar attacks, fight back aggressively and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back.
Cougar’s like many big cats go for the prey’s neck and throat to make the kill as quickly as possible. If you’re the prey in the horrifying encounter with an actual cougar attack and unarmed, the defense of your own throat and neck is a priority.
More cougar encounter tips from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife:
Stop, pick up small children immediately, and don’t run. Running and rapid movements may trigger an attack. Remember, at close range, a cougar’s instinct is to chase.
Face the cougar. Talk to it firmly while slowly backing away. Always leave the animal an escape route.
Try to appear larger than the cougar. Get above it (e.g., step up onto a rock or stump). If wearing a jacket, hold it open to further increase your apparent size. If you are in a group, stand shoulder-to-shoulder to appear intimidating.
Do not take your eyes off the cougar or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
Never approach the cougar, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens, and never offer it food.
If the cougar does not flee, be more assertive. If it shows signs of aggression (crouches with ears back, teeth bared, hissing, tail twitching, and hind feet pumping in preparation to jump), shout, wave your arms and throw anything you have available (water bottle, book, backpack). The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.
If the cougar attacks, fight back. Be aggressive and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back using anything within reach, including sticks, rocks, shovels, backpacks, and clothing—even bare hands. If you are aggressive enough, a cougar will flee, realizing it has made a mistake. Pepper spray in the cougar’s face is also effective in the extreme unlikelihood of a close encounter with a cougar.
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Feeding Areas (caches)
Cougars usually carry or drag their kills to a secluded area under cover to feed, and drag marks are frequently found at fresh kill sites. After killing a large animal and having eaten its fill, a cougar often will cover the remains with debris such as snow, grass, leaves, sticks, or soil. Even where little debris is available, bits of soil, rock, grass or sticks may be used to cover the carcass. The cougar may remain in the immediate vicinity of its kill, guarding it against scavengers and eating it over a period of six to eight days. (Meat becomes rotten quickly in the summer and male cougars have to patrol their territory. Often these males will make a kill, feed until full, leave to patrol the area, and return to feed on the carcass days later.)
Do not approach or linger around a recently killed or partially covered deer or elk.
Cougars generally cover their droppings with loose soil. When visible, their droppings typically resemble those of most species in the dog and cat families. However, cougars have well developed premolars that can slice through bone and hide. Therefore, their droppings often show chunks and fragments of chewed bone and considerable hair from the hide. Members of the dog family gnaw on bones but usually don’t chew them up into cut fragments.
Cougar droppings are generally cylindrical in shape, segmented, and blunt at one or both ends. An average dropping measures 4 to 6 inches long by 1 to 1½ inches in diameter. The size of the dropping may indicate the size of the cougar.