A 14-year old Illinois deer hunter has now recanted his story of fighting off a mountain lion attack while out hunting alone last week. According to Chris McCloud, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, "apparently, it was a fall from his tree stand - not a mountain lion - that caused his injuries."
Originally the youth's story was that he was lucky to still be alive and that the faint scratches on his face and tears in his camouflaged jacket proved that he had been attacked. As usual, reports of a lion attack generated fear among the public and fervor for retribution, as demonstrated by the boy's father when he stated "Regardless of what it was -- I don't care if it's a raccoon -- regardless, it's still out there. If it's going to attack a boy that big, what's next."
Unfortunately, such spurious stories of lion attacks occur on a regular basis and perpetuate the false impression among many that just the existence of a mountain lion is cause for alarm and panic. According to the California Department of Fish and Game, which is responsible for the nation's largest lion population, more than 80 percent of all lion sighting reports are false, and fewer than three percent of all verified reports represent an actual public safety threat.
Illinois' last indigenous lion was reported killed in 1855. Since the year 2000, there have been three confirmed lion sightings (two along Illinois' western border (2000 and 2004), and one outside Chicago in 2008), all of which resulted in the death of the animal.