University of Illinois Extension

Report Unusual Wildlife Sightings to IDNR

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources would like your help in reporting sightings of unusual wildlife around the state in order to monitor range expansions of wildlife species or their escape from captive situations. If you think that you may have recently seen a mountain lion, wolf, black bear, armadillo, elk, or non-native deer in Illinois, please complete the form found below. All of these species typically avoid direct contact with people. In most cases, it is best to simply alert the public and monitor these animals while they are in an area. Removal of the animal is usually not necessary or practical.

Any unsafe situation should be reported to the police. A number of guidelines should be followed when encountering aggressive wildlife. Avoid areas where aggressive animals have been reported. Alert the landowner and local police immediately. Stay away from dense cover where the animals may hide. Keep a close watch over small children and pets. Keep dogs and other pets leashed when walking. If you encounter an aggressive animal, do not turn and run. Be noisy and aggressive. Throw sticks, rocks, or other objects at the animal or spray it with water in order to frighten it off.

The mountain lion, wolf, elk, and black bear were extirpated (eliminated) from Illinois by the early to mid 1800s due to habitat alteration and hunting pressure. Today, there are no wild breeding populations of these species in Illinois. However, depending on the species, transient animals could find their way into Illinois. Transient animals are typically single, often subadult animals that were born in the wild and traveled from surrounding states in search of a new home area. Additionally, armadillos have been expanding their range northward and are now reported in Illinois, and elk and non-native deer (such as fallow deer or sika deer) are sometimes sighted after escaping from captivity.

If you have seen one of the wildlife species listed below in Illinois, please complete the Unusual Wildlife Sightings report. Be as specific as possible with your description of the animal and include good quality digital images or photographs if available. Photos or images of the animal, tracks (preferably with a ruler next to them for scale), scat, or prey remains can all be useful in helping a biologist confirm the identity of the animal. Large mammals can travel many miles in a single day, so reporting sightings quickly is important. If you are not sure about what type of animal you saw, you can use the species descriptions and website links provided below. The descriptions include photos of the species as well as of animals that are commonly confused with the rare species.