Update: The cat was rescued on the afternoon of Dec. 6 by Fernandez Tree Service, the same Chicago certified arborists who saved a cat from a tree in Chicago’s Galewood neighborhood in October. According to an update post on the River Forest Neighbors Facebook page, Fernandez Tree Service refused to take money for the rescue. The cat, a female, was checked out by a vet. She has a fever but appears otherwise fine. She will be taken in by Brett Gentile, one of the residents who helped with the rescue.
River Forest residents have been trying since Dec. 5 to save a cat stuck about 40 feet up in a tree in the forest preserves at Thatcher Avenue and Hawthorne Avenue.
Resident Irene O’Connor, who started a post about the cat on a River Forest Facebook page, said she was originally alerted to the problem when she saw two teenage girls trying to shake the tree to get the cat down.
According to O’Connor and resident Brett Gentile, the police said they couldn’t help. Nor could the fire department or the village’s public works department. They said they’d also called the Cook County Forest Preserves, which was also not able to offer assistance.
Residents left food out at the base of the tree overnight, but by the morning of Dec. 6, the cat was still up in the tree, crying out from time to time.
Residents hung tarps and sheets between trees, creating a safe space if the cat fell or jumped. One resident went to the fire station in person to ask for assistance but was told the fire department could not assist.
When she returned to the forest preserves, she climbed an 18-foot-ladder into the tree next to the one the cat was in, then climbed a few feet further, while dead branches cracked. She instructed other people on the scene to call 9-1-1, stating she was stuck and couldn’t get down.
When the fire department arrived at the scene, they said they were going to help her down.
“I’m not coming down until you get the cat,” she told them.
They said they had been instructed not to rescue the cat but would help her if she needed assistance.
Meanwhile, a hawk circled above the cat a few times, raising concern that the cat might become prey, but also hope that it might scare the cat down. Neither scenario occurred, though, and the cat remained stuck in the tree.
A helpful man with a drone arrived. He suggested flying the drone near the cat to possibly startle it into climbing back down.
The woman in the tree came back down to assist with fastening the tarps and sheets more tightly so if the cat did jump or fall in response to the drone, it would have a safer landing. The fire department left once the woman was on the ground.
A group of people held the tarps and sheets taut while the drone was flown near the cat, which showed interest in it but didn’t react in any meaningful way.
The man with the drone, whom residents described as “MacGyver,” left to get a small crossbow with a weighted anchor attached to a rope, which he shot over a branch near the cat. This allowed him to pull on the branch, with the hope that it would shake the cat out of the tree. It appeared to be working, but the branch began to crack. It was a large branch, and the plan was abandoned out of concern for the people standing underneath the tree.
At 12:30 p.m. the cat was still in the tree, while concerned residents discussed other options.
President Cathy Adduci responded on the Facebook post on Dec. 6 around 1 p.m., stating that, “The fire chief indicates that a fire truck could not get to where the cat is. The liability to the village is huge if an employee is hurt outside of the village jurisdiction given this is the Cook County Forest Preserve. The best bet is for a private service that can do the rescue.”
Adduci also advised against anyone climbing the tree or a ladder and getting stuck.
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