MORRISON – A mountain lion captured on trail cameras and spotted by several witnesses is padding around western Whiteside County near Morrison, Sheriff John Booker said in a news release Thursday night.
“We are now aware of multiple sightings of an apparent mountain lion in the rural areas surrounding Morrison,” Booker said.
It’s at least the second big cat to roam the area in the last 10 years.
Mountain lions rarely attack humans, and this one does not appear to pose a significant risk to people, Booker said.
“He looks pretty scary on the trail cam, but we have received absolutely no reports of any threatening encounters with humans.”
Mountain lions, or cougars, are protected species, so don’t shoot it unless there is an “imminent threat” to a person or property, such as livestock or pets.
Anyone who sees the mountain lion and is concerned for their safety should call the sheriff’s office at 815-772-4044, or 911. Sightings also should be reported to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at https://www.wildlifeillinois.org/sightings/report.
It’s not the first time a mountain lion has visited the Morrison area, home of Rockwood State Park.
On Nov. 20, 2013 (two years before the law protecting the endangered big cats was passed), IDNR conservation officer Ron Palumbo shot a cougar that was cornered in a concrete tunnel beneath a corn crib.
In that case, the big male posed a threat to locals and their livestock, as well to as horses on the property it was headed toward when it was spotted.
It was preserved and now is on display at the Andersen Nature Center in Fulton.
The IDNR has some advice for those who do encounter a mountain lion:
• Don’t surprise it. Make enough noise to make sure it hears you.
• Don’t run. A cougar isn’t likely to attack a person unless it feels trapped or provoked, or if a person appears to be prey.
• If you are in a group, gather together and move as a group.
• Don’t approach it.
• If the cougar sees you, stand your ground. Look as large as possible by standing up straight and putting your arms up in the air and slowly backing away. If possible, get inside a building or vehicle.
• If a cougar does attack you, try to fight it off. Throw rocks, use sticks.
• Don’t play dead.
For now, though, “we are not aware of any reason why people should stay indoors or act differently. Our farmers in rural Morrison may wish to keep a bit of a closer eye on their livestock until he moves on,” Booker said.
“Hopefully, he is merely a unique visitor, just passing through.”