Another possible cougar sighting in Winnetka
Updated: September 5, 2012 8:49PM
WINNETKA — Police are advising residents of a possible, though unconfirmed, sighting of a cougar on the North Shore on Labor Day.
It is at least the third such sighting of what may be a cougar in the Winnetka-Glencoe area this year.
About 8:30 p.m. Monday, the Winnetka Police Department received a report of an animal, along the 1300 block of Willow Road, adjacent to the Village Public Works Facility, police said in a release.
The detailed description provided of the animal warranted additional investigation, police said.
A Winnetka Police Department source confirmed a family driving eastbound that night on Willow Road saw an animal that “didn’t fit the description of a fox or a coyote.” The family drove by again and the animal ran into the woods near the building.
Police consulted with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Police also called on the service of a wildlife expert to investigate and determine the type of animal.
Katie Sweeney, who works with animal control for the Glencoe Public Safety Department, said the last confirmed cougar sighting in the area was in 2008, when one was killed in Chicago.
“They did DNA analysis on that male cougar and found out he was indeed from South Dakota,” Sweeney said. “South Dakota is overpopulated with cougars right now.”
Sweeney said males compete for territorial dominance with other cougars in the wild and sometimes younger males find it easier to head to a new area.
“They do follow rivers and waterways and come through the Midwest,” Sweeney said, DNA evidence once linked a cougar killed by a car in Connecticut to South Dakota.
“Their main food source are deer, which are plentiful here,” she said. “They love waterways, which we have a lot of. I don’t think they would set up habitat here, but there is enough to keep them interested and satisfied. They typically don’t like to be around a densely populated area.”
The two previous reported cougar sightings this year have been in Winnetka’s North Shore neighbor of Glencoe. Both sightings were of a large cat-type animal near the Lake Michigan bluff/shoreline, according to the village of Glencoe.
The first sighting occurred on the morning of April 15 on the bluff below the Hazel Avenue overlook, a release from the village said. A resident on an early morning walk observed a large cat, which had been lying down, but rose to its feet and disappeared into the heavy brush.
The second sighting occurred on the evening of July 26, when a Glencoe Public Safety employee witnessed a large cat cross the street at Dell Place and Lakeside Terrace and walk down toward the lake.
Sweeney advises residents to keep their pets indoors or on a leash and not to leave food sources out for wild animals. If you were to encounter a cougar, Sweeny said to stand still and yell, which should scare the animal away.
Deterrents include dogs, music, and bright, flashing lights.
“They are very evasive and silent,” Sweeney said. “The chances of seeing them are very slim. We have no confirmed cougars in our area by footprinting or photographs.”
When Glencoe officials discussed the sightings with the Cook County Forest Preserve District, they were informed that the Forest Preserve District had received two unconfirmed cougar sightings in the Skokie Lagoon area earlier in July.
Police want residents to be aware of these sightings and to call 911 immediately if they think they see a cougar in the area.