Make no mistake about it, Illinois has seen some pretty interesting cats over the last few years. In 2022, an out-of-state mountain lion was hit by a car and killed in Dekalb County, while another one was grabbed up alive on a loitering charge near Springfield and promptly exiled to Indiana.

Illinois also has a robust and growing population of bobcats, over 5,000 of them, scattered through 99 of Illinois' 102 counties.

The particular member of the cat family we're talking about today is not something we're accustomed to seeing anywhere in Illinois or the rest of the Midwest. As a matter of fact, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find them anywhere in the country...but there's at least one of them in Illinois right now.

Serval eyes camera from middle of track
Pleased to meet you, won't you guess my name? (Getty Images)

This Stunning Creature Is The Serval Cat (Or, Just Serval), Also Known As The "Bush Cat," Or The Tierboskat, Which Means "Tiger Bush Cat" In Afrikaans

As you might imagine, servals are not a native Illinois wild cat. They come from the African continent, where they live throughout parts of northwest Africa and much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Here are a couple of facts about the serval (hat tip to the San Diego Zoo):

  • Length: 23 to 36 inches, with males larger than females
  • Height: 17 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder
  • Weight: 15 to 40 pounds
  • The serval has the longest legs and largest ears for its body size of any cat
  • If we had ears in the same proportion to our head as servals do, they would be the size of dinner plates
  • No two serval coats are the same. In fact, servals that live near woodlands have more dots that are small than those cats that spend time on the savanna
  • Servals mostly hunt rodents—on average, one serval eats 4,000 a year—but they’re not picky eaters like some other wild cats. They’ll eat anything small enough for them to catch, including grasshoppers, snakes, and even birds as large as storks and guinea fowls. They’ll occasionally wade into water to gobble up frogs and other amphibians. A serval can catch up to 30 frogs in three hours while hunting in water.
Seriously, the serval kittens are pretty adorable. (Getty Images)
Seriously, the serval kittens are pretty adorable. (Getty Images)
Then they get bigger. (Getty Images)
Then they get bigger. (Getty Images)

Now That You've Become An Expert In Identifying A Serval, Authorities In Macon County Illinois Would Like Some Help Finding One

Decatur, Illinois is the county seat for Macon County, and law enforcement there says that a serval has been seen in and around the northeast side of the city:

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Gallery Credit: Katherine Gallagher

LOOK: Here are the pets banned in each state

Because the regulation of exotic animals is left to states, some organizations, including The Humane Society of the United States, advocate for federal, standardized legislation that would ban owning large cats, bears, primates, and large poisonous snakes as pets.

Read on to see which pets are banned in your home state, as well as across the nation.

Gallery Credit: Elena Kadvany

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