Though mountain lions once roamed the hills and forests of Illinois, persecution at the hands of humans drove them locally extinct. If we support open space conservation and preserve corridors connecting potential habitat, we could reverse this situation and bring mountain lions back home to Illinois.
Although mountain lions may be physically capable of living in an area, human activities and attitudes could keep them from reestablishing a population there.
Fragmentation, sport hunting practices, and intolerant communities can wipe out mountain lions from any area.
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Before European settlement, mountain lions roamed throughout Illinois and beyond. Perceived conflict with livestock, heavy hunting pressure, conversion of wildlands to agriculture and other forms of habitat loss drove Illinois's mountain lions to local extinction.
There hasn't been much, if any, research specifically addressing potential habitat for mountain lions in the state, but there has been work looking at the importance of potential dispersal corridors across the U.S. Though we don't have a direct measurement of potential habitat acreage were mountain lions to return to Illinois, we can be fairly certain there is ample habitat to re-establish a population there, even if it were a small one. In addition, a viable population in Illinois would help provide potential dispersing individuals to help repopulate neighboring states across the Midwest. A study by LaRue et al. (2007) estimates that there are 9,902 square kilometers of highly suitable habitat across the Midwest.
Establishing mountain lion-friendly legislation and management practices will likely need to play a role in allowing this top carnivore to return to the great state of Illinois. Check out our Action Tab to see what you can do to help!