Mountain Lion Makes 700-Mile Trek Across US, Somehow Ends Up ‘Chunky’

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Ignacio Palacios via Getty Images)

In late October, residents of Springfield, Illinois, were growing more nervous by the day. They had spotted a mountain lion wandering through the area and feared for their pets and their children. Unwilling to wait for the mysterious disappearance of a neighborhood dog, they called animal control, who contacted federal wildlife officials.

Before long, the wildlife experts had located and sedated the mountain lion. With the big cat safely asleep in their vehicle, they discovered it was sporting an ear tag and a GPS collar from their Nebraska counterparts. So they called up the Nebraska wildlife officials and asked if they would like their mountain lion back.

Well, it turns out Nebraska had enough of the predator’s presence. Rather than accepting him back to his home state, they declined the offer. With nowhere else to turn, they called the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Indiana. It was a big request, considering sanctuary owner Joe Taft had no time for preparation, but they hoped the big cat specialist would understand their dilemma.

To their relief, Taft welcomed the new resident with open arms, inviting the wildlife officials to bring the wayward cougar to his 260-acre sanctuary. Upon its arrival, Taft immediately went to work ensuring the animal would have a happy, healthy life at the Rescue Center.

Taft and a veterinarian first gave the cat a thorough exam, and though he was a little worse for wear, with ticks and multiple scars, he seemed perfectly healthy. So healthy, in fact, that he was actually a little chunky, despite his 700-mile journey from Nebraska to Illinois. “He has been a very successful predator,” Joe Taft explained to Journal Star, who snapped a few pictures of the animal. “He’s on the chunky side for a boy who’s done a whole lot of walking.”

Big Cat Sanctuary Prepares to Build Habitat for Chunky Mountain Lion

When the mountain lion first arrived at his gates, Joe Taft had no choice but to house him in a cage temporarily. Unsurprisingly, the big cat made it clear that he did not appreciate his new accommodations, refusing food until he was given a more suitable home.

Thankfully, the cougar’s new (but still temporary) home was ready in a few short days. He’s currently exploring an enclosure built to house leopards rescued from a meth lab.

The cat quickly got comfortable in his new surroundings, finding a wooden den box that he liked. And after that, he happily ate a deer leg. Then two deer legs. Then the rest of the deer.

For Joe Taft, however, housing a mountain lion in a leopard enclosure simply won’t do. Instead, he plans to build a 220-foot by 220-foot enclosure with the big cat in mind.

It will have 20-foot walls, downed trees, boulders, and a water feature – all of a mountain lion’s favorite things. “It’s a wild animal,” Taft said. “We just feel the more space he has, the more comfortable he’s going to be here.”