Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The first cougar sightings in northern Illinois in over a century have been made.
What's really interesting is where. This would be at Hoyne and Roscoe, in trendy Roscoe Village, in Chicago, a modest and ordinarily charming mile's walk from my last known residence in the north. A 5 foot cougar was cornered and killed there.
A cougar (likely but not certainly the same one) had recently been sighted in Wilmette, near Mrs. Clinton's birthplace among the congenitally Republican group that profits most from Chicago's grit and energy. Prior to that there had been a sighting in North Chicago, a fading rustbelt satellite, further north along the great lake, and prior to that, one a bit further north still in southern Wisconsin.
Where was this cat heading? Did it want to check out the jazz scene at Schuba's? Was it planning to apply for a job at the Board of Trade? Did it have tickets for a Cubs game? Did it have a lifelong ambition to see the Monets at the Art Institute? Why, in the name of everything gigantic and catlike, was it heading directly downtown?
There was a similar incident in Madison, Wisconsin a few years back in which a large bear was found wandering around a suburb inside the beltline highway, far from anything that might serve as bear habitat. At the time I had a similar reaction. I imagined it was, perhaps, coming to see Governor Tommy Thompson to petition for more bear habitat.
Unfortunately, the bear met a similar end as the cougar, shot to death in a school playground rather than a back alley, having willfully ignored the prominent "no grizzlies unaccompanied by an adult allowed" sign.
Have we reached a point where our urban areas are so much more attractive than our countryside that even the wild animals are starting to head downtown? Or did the animals proceed from some deeper, more altruistic motivation to get to the bottom of the strange goings on that have been increasingly unavoidable of late, even for the most reclusive of megafauna?
I hope it's that last one. Even though they are horribly outmatched, I have deep admiration for these remarkable animals, who seem to have gotten it into their heads to figure out where all the trouble was coming from and fix it once and for all.
Update: It was indeed a wild cougar, apparently, and had been heading for the Loop from its home in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. But why?