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Update: Springfield mountain lion tranquilized, taken to sanctuary

File photo of a mountain lion
Tambako the Jaguar/flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode
File photo of a mountain lion

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, after several days of tracking and observing a mountain lion on the west side of Springfield, made the decision today to tranquilize the animal and transport it to a sanctuary specializing in the care of large felines, according to a news release.

Wildlife experts and public safety officials from IDNR, the Illinois Conservation Police, the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services (USDA WS), and the Springfield Police Department determined that the mountain lion, or cougar, that had strayed into residential and business areas of Springfield posed an imminent threat to residents and property and therefore needed to be removed.

The animal, which is wearing a GPS collar and has made its way to Illinois from Nebraska, was detected by satellite in western Springfield Wednesday morning. IDNR officials conferred with their counterparts at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, who declined an offer to send the mountain lion back to their state.

USDA WS staff tranquilized the mountain lion around noon on Friday and will be transporting the animal to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center (ERFC), a 260-acre feline sanctuary in Center Point, Indiana that provides homes and veterinary care for large and exotic cats.

“Thank you to our hardworking wildlife staff and conservation police and our partners across federal, state, and local agencies for handling this difficult situation with the professionalism and care that this beautiful wild animal and concerned residents deserve,” said IDNR Director Colleen Callahan. “I am confident that the mountain lion will be protected and cared for at its new home. I also want to thank the families of Springfield for being cautious and keeping their distance while our experts worked to ensure the safety of the community and the mountain lion.”

Earlier this week, IDNR notified residents living west of Veterans Parkway in Springfield that the mountain lion was detected on the western edge of the city and was being tracked by researchers.

The cougar is a young male that has been moving through central Illinois the past couple weeks. It was captured and fitted with a GPS collar by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in November 2021 as part of an ongoing research project. IDNR continues to cooperate with biologists and researchers in Nebraska. It previously was detected in McDonough and Cass counties.

Although classified as an animal of “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on their Red List of Threatened Species, mountain lions are protected in Illinois, and it is unlawful to harm, harass or kill them unless they pose an imminent threat to a person or property, which rarely occurs. While cougars can travel great distances, they tend to avoid conflict with humans.

For more information about mountain lions in Illinois, visit https://bit.ly/ILmountainlions.