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Possible Cougar Sighting In Chicago's Northwest Suburbs

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A big cat warning has been issued in a northwest suburban community following a probable cougar sighting.

Between the nature in Streamwood and suburban life, there are concerns about the wildlife. The neighborhood has been put on alert there could be a cougar sighting in the area.

"I was surprised! I wasn't expecting a mountain lion being in the neighborhood," said Streamwood resident Lora Williams.

Williams is just one of many notified by letter and a community website for Surrey Woods and surround communities that at least one cougar could be nearby.

According to the posting earlier this week, one homeowner saw a large catlike animal move across their yard and climb a tree along the area near Surrey Woods Park.

The homeowner contacted the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and was told it was a "probable cougar sighting," adding there have been several within five to ten miles of the community.

"I can't imagine how it would get over there," said Williams.

In 2008, a cougar was shot and killed in an alley in Roscoe Village. Police say it charged at an officer who opened fire to protect his life. Back then, zoologists predicted you might see more urban and suburban sightings.

"I don't actually think it's all that surprising. We have a lot of evidence the population is increasing," proclaimed Dr. Steve Thompson, a zoologist at Lincoln Park Zoo.

In Streamwood, there are fears the people using the neighborhood bike path could come into contact with a cougar.

The cats see small animals like raccoons, rabbits, or pets as prey.

"I won't let my dog off its leash," said Williams. "I'm going to keep him by my side. I know they can attack small dogs. I just want to keep him safe."

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