Exotic cat dead after escaping enclosure in Vernon Hills

A serval is dead after escaping its enclosure in suburban Vernon Hills over the weekend.

At about 7:16 p.m. Saturday, Vernon Hills police responded to an address in the Grosse Point subdivision for a report of what was believed to be a bobcat on the loose.

The 911 caller said the cat had chased and cornered a neighbor who was walking her dog nearby.

When officers arrived at the scene, the cat was located and officers began to track it while attempting to identify its species, police said.

Through a photograph, personnel from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources identified the animal as a serval, which is a wild cat species native to Africa.

The cat's owners were located a short time later while they were out searching for the lost animal, police said.

The serval was captured by the owners with the help of police personnel and was transported to their nearby home.

While the owners attempted to transfer the cat from a vehicle to its enclosure, the serval sustained injuries, which ultimately resulted in the cat's death.

While investigating, police determined that the cat likely escaped its pen while the owners were away from home. The serval was loose for nearly three hours. 

"This is an unfortunate incident, and we extend our condolences to the animal’s owners for their loss," said Vernon Hills Police Chief Patrick L. Kreis. "The keeping of exotic pets in suburban environments, though, is not without risk. We are fortunate that no nearby residents or pets were injured by this naturally predatory animal."

It is not illegal to own a serval in the state of Illinois. However, it is illegal to sell servals in the state. 

Vernon Hills officials said they will review local regulations on the keeping of similar animals to determine if changes are needed moving forward.