I would swear with 99% certainty that I saw a Red Wolf a few seasons back. I hunt Iroquois County a few miles off the state line. I was at full draw on what I thought was a coyote coming through, and didn't shoot because I decided it was somebody's dog based on the size and coloration. It stopped literally 10 yards in front of my stand for about 15/20 seconds. I still didn't shoot because I was amazed at what I was seeing. I wish I could've gotten a picture of it.
I was at a science teacher's convention later that year and stopped by the DNR booth. I waited until nobody else was near to ask the officer working the booth if there are any confirmed sighting of Red Wolves in IL. I told her I was pretty sure I'd seen one while hunting. She got kind of cagey, and began asking me questions about where I hunt. I described the area, and then the characteristics of the animal and the way it moved, (long bushy tail straight out when it ran, legs that seemed longer than usual, very red coloration to the fur). All she would say is that "there are no official populations of wolves in IL".... I replied, so I can go ahead and shoot it assuming it's a coyote? She then gave me the runaround about how I should be very sure about what I shoot in case it's somebody's dog or a protected species.... weird
**and in reference to the original post, I grew up just north of I80 near Ottawa... I have definitely seen large cat tracks in the mud along Indian Creek on 2 different occasions. I've never seen a cougar personally, but have heard of people who did get pics on their trail cams.
"When a hunter is in a tree stand with high moral values and with the proper hunting ethics and richer for the experience, that hunter is 20 feet closer to God." ~Fred Bear