RIVERSIDE – A resident of the 700 block of Leesley Road reported a strange sighting to police around 5:40 p.m. on Wednesday – a cougar.
Police said the resident called the RiversidePolice Department to report that an animal that looked like a cougar had climbed out of a tree in her front yard.
A police officer responded to the home and did not find any animal that matched the resident's description, but did find scratch marks on the tree and paw prints in the snow. The officer reported they might have been from a large raccoon or coyote, but not likely a cougar.
Police said in a news release that "While certainly there's a possibility that there could be a cougar it appears that this call is not as reported."
Cougars have been spotted recently in southern Illinois on trail cameras maintained by the Illinois Department of Conservation and a cougar was shot and killed by a conservation officer with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in November near Morrison, Ill – about 130 miles outside Chicago.
A cougar was also shot and killed on Chicago north side in 2008.
In a 2012 study, the Journal of Wildlife Management reported that cougars were returning to the Midwest a century after they were hunted to near extinction in the region.
While a cougar in Riverside would be an extremely rare occurrence, it might not be a bad idea to keep an eye out. At the very least, Riverside residents might be looking over there shoulders for a few days.