There are currently no known breeding populations of cougars in Illinois. There have been three confirmed reports of individual cougars moving through the state. All three were killed. If you see the animal please fill out an unusual wildlife sighting report at: http://web.extension.uiuc.edu/wildlife/sightings_report.cfm
Including photos of the animal(s) and/or the tracks will help IDNR biologists confirm the presence of the animal. Your local IDNR district wildlife biologist should also be notified. Contact information for IDNR DWBs can be found on the 'Find a Professional' page of this website.
Cougars are not protected by Illinois’ Wildlife Code. Two subspecies, the eastern cougar and Florida panther, are protected by federal laws because they are listed as endangered. The eastern cougar is presumed to be extinct (http://www.fws.gov/ecos/ajax/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=A046). Regulations designed to prevent the accidental killing of Florida panthers by prohibiting the take of any subspecies of cougar apply only in the State of Florida (Federal Register Vol. 55, No. 166, August 27, 1990).
In Illinois, persons attempting to take cougars must have express permission to do so from the landowner or tenant of the property where they are hunting or trapping cougars. No hunting or trapping license is required to take cougars in Illinois, but other provisions of the Wildlife Code apply (for example, it is unlawful to use lights from a vehicle, carry an uncased gun in a vehicle, or shoot from a road). Some people mistake bobcats for cougars. Bobcats are common in Illinois, and are protected by continuous closed seasons.