If it sounds too strange, it’s probably not true. And the IDNR has busted one of the urban legends that has recently resurfaced.

Emails about cougar sightings near Findlay have spread throughout the area in recent days. The email even claims sightings near Lovington and the Robinson Creek bottom along Route 16.

The email also claims that the cougar was released into the area by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to help control the deer population.

“This is a very common urban legend in states that don’t have cougars,” said Doug Brown, District Wildlife Biologist for IDNR in Charleston. “As an agency we don’t have any interest in using cougars for deer control.”

Brown admitted that his office has received a lot of calls in recent days regarding the information in the email.

“We get reports quite often of what people think are cougars and we do investigate. But many of the tracks we find are definitely coyote tracks, not cougar,” Brown said.

Brown added that his office has not found any dead cougars along roadways or train tracks. He noted that in states where cougars inhabit, trains are the high cause of death for the animal.

The legend of the big cat has spread to states including South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, and Pennsylvania as well as Ontario, Canada, according to snopes.com, a website noted for investigating Internet tales and urban legends.

The snopes.com investigation revealed that the pictures in the email were actually taken by a doctor in Lander, Wyoming, in 2001 or 2002. Details, such as the cougar was “watching his little kids on the kitchen floor,” was added by someone else and the story grew as it was forwarded.

“It’s always possible that we’ll get a cougar someday through migration or introduction, but it not happening yet,” Brown said. He noted that there have been three cougars found in Illinois in the past 100 years, but “there was a good explanation why they were there.” In most instances they were brought in as illegal pets.

Snopes.com researches many of the stories that are passed by email or are on the Internet and verifies or debunks them. Some stories on the website include cell phone abilities, politician stories, 9-11 stories, and computer viruses.

Before you hit the forward button on your email program to share the stories you receive, be sure to verify its truthfulness first.

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