Chicago police shot a mountain lion found roaming Chicago’s North side in an alley behind the 3400 block of North Hamilton Avenue (a bit west of Lincoln Avenue and a bit north of Belmont Avenue.)
A cougar ran loose in Chicago on Monday for the first time since the city’s founding in the 19th Century. But by day’s end, the animal lay dead in a back alley on the North Side, shot by police who said they feared it was turning to attack.
No one knew where the 150-pound cat came from, though on Saturday Wilmette police had received four reports of a cougar roaming that suburb, roughly 15 miles from the site of Monday’s shooting.
Whatever its origin, the 5-foot-long cougar’s unlikely journey ended in the Roscoe Village neighborhood, where residents reported sightings throughout the day to the Chicago Commission on Animal Care and Control. Resident Ben Greene said police cornered the cougar shortly before 6 p.m. in his side yard on the 3400 block of North Hoyne Avenue.
Greene said he heard a volley of gunfire as he was bathing his 10-month-old son. His wife, Kate, ran upstairs screaming with their 3-year-old son, and they all took cover in a back room.
“At first, I’m thinking there’s a gun battle in the street,” said Greene, who owns a trucking company.
As the shots stopped, Greene heard the police yelling, “We got him! We got him!” He ventured downstairs and moved on his knees to the front door, where he saw police on his lawn. The officers had shot holes in an air conditioning unit on the side of Greene’s house while aiming for the tan cougar, which died in the alley near Greene’s garage.
Chicago Police Capt. Mike Ryan said the cougar tried to attack the officers when they tried to contain it. Police said they could not tranquilize the animal because police officers typically do not carry tranquilizer guns. Police said no one, including officers, was hurt and they did not know the cougar’s gender.
“It was turning on the officers,” Ryan said. “There was no way to take it into custody.”
Dave’s Urban Legends notes that the shooting occurred two months after the the Illinois Department of Natural Resources issued a statement debunking false Internet rumors about cougar sightings in the state.
“While it is not completely impossible for a cougar to be found in Illinois,” Acting IDNR Director Sam Flood said at the time, “sighting of a wild one is highly unlikely. Wild cougars have been found in neighboring states but again, very, very rarely.”
Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.