Maureen Lossman was on the way to do some shopping at Gurnee Mills when she spotted something unusual in the middle of the street.
"I turned to my friend and said, 'Wait, what did I just see?'" said Lossman, of McHenry. "It's a tiger head!"
Lossman, 55, pulled her car to the side of the road and dashed into the street to get a closer look.
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," she said. "Right there inside a blue plastic milk crate was this head."
The head is from a domestic white tiger, an endangered animal, according to police, who released more information on the Feb. 26 incident this week. It had fallen off the back of another truck near the intersection of routes 120 and 12 on the way to the taxidermist. Because the animal is so rare, the head is valued at more than $10,000, according to police.
"There was a length of skin still connected to the head, but it wasn't the entire pelt," Lossman said. "I have horses, alpacas and dogs. This kind of thing doesn't gross me out."
The head was frozen solid and positioned in the crate with its face up and eyes slightly open. Lossman decided to put it in the covered bed of her pickup truck, and went on to the mall.
"We weren't in the mall more than an hour," she said. "It was out of sight in the cab of my pickup truck. I wasn't too worried about it."
After shopping, she went home and showed the head to her husband and children.
"They said, 'Whoa, a tiger's head. Gross,'" Lossman said.
At that point, Lossman called the McHenry County Sheriff's Department and reported the find. The sheriff then called the Lakemoor police, who came to Lossman's home to pick up the head.
According to the police report, an officer from Lakemoor called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service and asked them to retrieve the head. Fish and Wildlife officials picked it up and eventually returned it to its owner. Lossman said she thinks the owner must also have the pelt, but doesn't know for sure.
Fish and Wildlife officials said the animal was 18 years old and died of natural causes.
The police report did not cite the name of the tiger's owner or the place where it lived. But U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials said last month the tiger was being boarded at the Hawthorn Corp. Exotic Zoo near Richmond, which has proper permits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state of Illinois to house large cats and other animals.