SYCAMORE, Ill. (AP) — A mountain lion that was struck and killed last weekend along a northern Illinois highway will be analyzed by biologists seeking to uncover the rare animal’s origins, state wildlife officials said.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said Monday the mountain lion died Sunday after being hit by a vehicle along Interstate 88 in DeKalb County. Illinois State Police recovered the carcass, which will undergo a necropsy and DNA analysis at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana.
The DNR said that analysis will provide insight “about the animal, its place of origin, and exploratory movements across the Midwest.”
DNR experts believe the mountain lion may be the same one recorded in late September by a trail camera on private property in northwestern Illinois’ Whiteside County, which abuts Iowa.
Mountain lions were eliminated from Illinois prior to the 1870s due to habitat loss and hunting. They have been a protected species in Illinois since 2015.
While mountain lion sightings are extremely rare in Illinois, the DNR said confirmed sightings over the past few decades have consisted of younger animals, typically originating from a population in South Dakota’s Black Hills.
The DNR is monitoring another mountain lion that was reported in early October in western Illinois after traveling east across Iowa into Illinois. That animal is fitted with a GPS collar for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s ongoing research into Nebraska’s mountain lion population and its movements.