Articles, opinions, and editorials about mountain lions and the Mountain Lion Foundation.
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Reward offered for Florida panther found shot to death (4/29/2015)
The following story was written by Eric Staats and posted on the Naples Daily News website.
A search is on for the shooter of an endangered Florida panther found dead on the side of Immokalee Road last month.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Wednesday they are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the case.
The panther, a 5-year-old male, was reported to wildlife officials as a road kill about 8:30 p.m. March 22 by passing motorists west of Camp Keais Road, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.
Conservation Commission officers went to the location, and a follow-up investigation found that the panther had been shot.
Under the federal Endangered Species Act, the maximum penalty for killing a Florida panther is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Florida law makes it a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
In 2012, a Golden Gate Estates man pleaded guilty to killing a panther with a bow and arrow while hunting along Woodland Grade in the Estates in October 2009.
Todd Alan Benfield, then 45, was sentenced to three years of probation and 200 hours of community service at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve or the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, fined $5,000 and paid $5,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Benfield also was required to write public a letter of apology, which was printed in the Naples Daily News. In it, he said he killed the panther because he thought it was interfering with his hunting.
A 3- to 4-year-old uncollared male panther hit and killed by a car on I-75 about a mile east of the tollbooth in Collier County. Photo submitted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
(Article #1616) To read the actual news story click here...
Oregon Representative declares 3 wildlife bills dead in committee (4/28/2015)
Declaring that he won't approve any partisan bills, Representative Brad Witt, the Chairman of the Oregon House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources announced the death knell of three wildlife bills last week.
The first two, HB 2050 and HB 3515 were of an anti-wildlife nature.
House Bill 2050 bill would have allowed individual counties to ignore the restrictions in Measure 18 and use hounds to hunt or pursue cougars.
While Witt didn't consider this bill to be partisan, he did announce that it wasn't going to pass. "HB 2050 is going to die", Witt said. "It doesn't have enough votes to pass on the floor."
On the other hand, "House Bill 3515 is one of two bills that present partisan problems. HB 3515 would be a problem for one caucus, and House Bill 2537 would be a problem for the other caucus."
HB 3515 would have prohibited the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission from including the gray wolf on the state Endangered Species List as threatened or endangered.
Both 2050 and 3515 had the support of agriculture and hunters' groups, and opposition from animal-rights organizations.
House Bill 2537 was supported by animal-rights organizations and opposed by hunters. HB 2537 would have raised the penalties for the poaching of black bear or cougar to $15,000, the same as for Oregon's most highly valued game species, bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats.
"We try to the greatest extent on this committee to not take partisan votes, to not send bills out on a partisan basis," Witt said. "We were not able to do that in either of these instances. And those bills are going to die today."
(Article #1615) To read the actual news story click here...
Another Santa Monica Lion Crosses the Road (4/24/2015)
The following story was written by David Montero and originally posted on the Pasadena Star-News website.
National Park Service officials reported this morning that a second mountain lion in a month has crossed the 101 Freeway from its habitat in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Since NPS biologists have been tracking mountain lions in the area in 2002, only two of the wild cats had managed to make the passage. This one - known as P-32 - is believed to have traversed the highway near the border of Thousand Oaks and Camarillo on the morning of April 3.
P-32 is the first male mountain lion to make the dash across the freeway. The previous two were females - one known as P-12 made it in 2009, and the other was P-32's sister, P-33.
Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said the crossing marks a chance for the first male to establish new territory and avoid larger cats in the area where he'd wandered previously.
After crossing the Ventura Freeway, the young male - estimated to be 17 months old - is believed to have made his way across State Route 23 near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, then settled in the Simi Hills. His sister, park officials said, returned to the area where she originally crossed Highway 101.
Biologists have been studying the behavior of the mountain lions for the past 13 years, and there have been a total of about 40 that were identified. Each is named by the number in which they were discovered - meaning P-32 is the 32nd puma scientists discovered.
The crossing follows a flurry of mountain lion news in recent weeks. Earlier this month, P-22 - dubbed The Hollywood Cat - made headlines when it was found in the crawlspace of a home near Griffith Park.
(Article #1614) To read the actual news story click here...
Help Penn State Uncover the Nittany Lion's DNA (4/21/2015)
Penn State students are raising funds to sequence the genome of the extinct Nittany Lion, the beloved mascot of their university. The goal is to study the DNA sequence of Pennsylvania and Northeastern mountain lions, which have been regionally extinct (extirpated) since the late 1800s.
The results from this research will help to raise awareness about wildlife conservation and extinction among those in the Penn State community, and to highlight the involvement of undergraduate students in research at Penn State. The results may also help us to answer questions about the highly controversial and recently delisted "Eastern Cougar" as well as differing views on subspecies of mountain lions throughout the American continents.
As mountain lions have been gone from this region of the country for so long, the DNA from the stuffed and mounted mascots is considered "ancient DNA" -- very fragile and can be recovered only in low quantities. Thus, more sensitive techniques and a highly specialized lab are required for processing the samples.
Penn State's ancient DNA laboratory will be using the same methods that have been recently used to sequence the genomes of Neandertals and mammoths!
The research team needs to raise $12,000 to fund this project. To help, you can donate here!
To learn more about the project and follow its progress, visit the Nattany Lion Genome Project's
Facebook and Twitter pages.
(Article #1613) To read the actual news story click here...
CDFW gets P-22 out from under SoCal home (4/14/2015)
UPDATE: As of 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 14, CDFW and local researchers are reporting P-22 has left the building. His radio collar indicates he has moved out of the crawl space under the Los Feliz home.
The following story was written by Charlotte Alter and originally posted on the LA Times website earlier this morning.
A mountain lion that has been hiding under a Los Angeles home since Monday was still there as of Tuesday morning.
The lion, known as P-22, became famous in the area after National Geographic photographer Steve Winter captured an image of the animal in front of the Hollywood Sign. P-22 spends most of his time in Griffith Park, in the Santa Monica Mountains, but on Monday wandered into a crawlspace under the home of Jason and Paula Archinaco.
The big cat was discovered by two workers who were installing a security system in the home. "I didn't think for two seconds that it was a mountain lion in my house," Jason Archinaco told the Los Angeles Times. "If someone says Bigfoot's in your house, you go, 'Yeah,' and you stick your head in there."
P-22 had to cross two major freeways in order to reach Griffith Park, a feat that has made him into something of a big cat celebrity. The National Geographic shot turned him from wildlife celebrity to bona fide star, and scientists have attached a GPS collar to help track his movements.
To get P-22 out from under the home, officials from the Department of Fish and Wildlife poked the mountain lion with a pole, then threw tennis balls and bean bags at him, but all their efforts have so far been unsuccessful.
The Mountain Lion Foundation will continue to monitor this situation. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest details.
(Article #1612) To read the actual news story click here...
26 Lions Dead in Montana from Traps (4/13/2015)
Even though it's illegal to trap mountain lions in Montana, 48 lions have been captured in traps set for other animals over the past two years. Of those lions captured, 26 died and at least six suffered some form of damage to their paws but were released along with the non-injured lions.
One of the more egregious examples was presented recently by Cal Ruark, a former president of the Bitterroot Houndsmen Association and now a mountain lion advocate. A few weeks back a friend of Ruark's brought him a mountain lion paw, still caught in a steel-jawed wolf trap.
According to his friend there were deep claw marks in a tree near the location of the trap.
"He told me the trees were all tore to hell," Ruark said. "The drag on the trap was hung up on a tree and there were claw marks on the trees where the lion had stood up on its back legs and tried to climb."
Ruark is sure the mountain lion didn't survive.
"It might have been able to get along for a little while, but it's dead now," he said. "It can't hunt on three legs."
To make matters worse for Montana's mountain lions, House Bill 212 by Representative Kirk Wagoner just passed the Governor's desk unsigned. HB 212 changes the Montana Constitution to protect the right to trap.
Governor Steve Bullock's reason for not signing HB 212 was explained by Paul Fielder, a regional chapter director of the Montana Trappers Association.
"This bill was supported by Montana sportsmen and Montana ranchers and Montana farmers and Montana guides and outfitters," said Fielder. "The governor had to choose whether he wanted to upset those groups or not, so he left it alone."
Photo of a lion paw in a wolf trap, from the Missoulian.
(Article #1611) To read the actual news story click here...
Mishka: Washington Fish and Wildlife's first bear dog retires after 12 years of faithful service (4/8/2015)
This story was written by Annette Cary, and posted by the Tri-City Herald on March 19, 2015.
While the following story refers mostly to bears, Mishka and his fellow Karelian bear dogs are similarly used to deal with wayward cougars
Washington's first Karelian bear dog likely has harassed his last bear and sniffed out the wild game bones left behind by a poacher for the final time.
Mishka, after serving the state for 12 years, is headed to a life of leisure after a retirement ceremony Thursday in Kennewick.
He lives on the west side of the state with his handler and owner, Fish and Wildlife officer Bruce Richards, but was honored in Kennewick as the agency's officers gathered there for training this week.
Mishka is part of a breed that is instinctively bold with bears and can be trained to track, help capture and then discourage bears from returning to places where they can get in trouble with people.
Mishka solves more bear problems in a year than most officers can in a career, Richards has said. He also is retiring after 41 years with the agency.
The black and white dog started working with biologist Rocky Spencer, helping with cougar research. He would find the carcasses of prey killed by cats being tracked with state collars.
After Spencer died in a helicopter accident, Richards took over his care in a pilot program to see if Karelian bear dogs could be used in game enforcement programs.
"(Mishka) was very good at finding dead bones," Richards said.
The dog's first test in the enforcement program was to see if he could locate the bones of a poached elk that state enforcement officers had heard about in the Olympic National Park. They had been unable to find the carcass over the course of a year.
Richards took Mishka on a three-hour hike to an area of the park where the elk was believed to have been shot. Then Richards took the dog's halter off, a signal that he was working.
Fifteen minutes later, Mishka was back with an elk bone. He had dug below some leaves in a rocky area that would have been difficult for Richards and other officers to search. A bone with saw marks also was discovered, helping wrap up the case.
"He makes one big game case a year usually," Richards said.
At home with Richards, Mishka is gentle with the orphaned wildlife that Richards' wife will sometimes bottlefeed for a few days for the Fish and Wildlife Department.
"Fawns go up to Mishka and he adopts them," Richards said.
He has been socialized to be good with kids. One of Richards' favorite memories in his years with Mishka was seeing a small boy with spina bifida staring at the dog, obviously entranced, at the state fair in Puyallup.
Richards said the boy, who was not much taller than Mishka, could take him for a walk. The obviously happy child spent 20 minutes slowly and haltingly making his way in a circle around a table, holding Mishka by the collar.
A bear provokes a different reaction from Mishka than the tender side he shows to children and fawns.
"He will go nose to nose with a bear," Richards said.
Karelian bear dogs are used by the state to track bears and cougars. They hunt like a wolf, tracking and then circling their prey. The dogs are so agile that they can bounce around and evade the attack of a dangerous animal, Richards said.
Mishka and other Karelian bear dogs help harass captured bears as they are released. In a "hard release," a bear may be shot with rubber bullets and the dogs released to chase it, re-introducing a fear of civilization to the bears.
"Bears are very, very smart and can be taught to stay away from people," Richards said.
Richards estimates that at least 80 percent of bears trapped and released with the assistance of Mishka avoid becoming repeat offenders, which can lead to them being killed.
Mishka also has been used to confirm that no wild animal is in an area.
In one early case, Richards was called out at night after a couple showed up at Puyallup hospital needing multiple stitches. They had been attacked by a cougar, they said.
But when he and Mishka reached the spot where the couple said they were attacked, Mishka's hair did not stand up like it does if a cougar is in the vicinity. He ran around like he was chasing rabbits rather than hunting a cougar, Richards said.
When they went back to the couple's house, they found the couple's white pit bull in the backyard, covered with blood from attacking its owners.
Without Mishka indicating that there was no cougar, officers could have spent weeks trying to find the nonexistent cougar, and the community would have panicked, Richards said.
Karelian bear dogs were bred for hunting in Finland, where they have been regarded as a national treasure. During World War II Russians killed them, reducing their population to less than 100, Richards said. Today, there are about 400 in the United States.
Mishka came from the kennel of a Florence, Mont., dog breeder, Carrie Hunt. She had traveled to Finland and brought a pair home to the United States to try to save the grizzly bears that were being killed because they became too comfortable around humans in national parks, including Glacier National Park, Richards said.
Mishka can be a handful, Richards said.
"They are called the mule of the dog world - very smart, but very independent," Richards said.
"The hardest thing to do is teach them to come. They want to go," he said. He cannot leave a car window unrolled. If Mishka sees something to chase, he'll be out the window.
However, Mishka is slowing down now. The last time Richards and Mishka were out in the woods, Richards had to lift the dog over a log. His dog is ready to sit in the truck these days, Richards said.
"Mishka has served Washington wildlife enthusiasts well and has more than earned retirement," he said.
Fish and Wildlife will continue to use five other Karelian bear dogs to help with research, haze bears, assist investigations and locate injured and orphaned wildlife. Three are based in western Washington and two others are based in Wenatchee, where they are used mostly for research.
Other states are considering using Karelian bear dogs in their wildlife enforcement programs, thanks to the success of Washington's program, Richards said.
Information about how this program began was featured in Barking Up the Right Tree: Washington's Karelian Bear Dog Program, and listen to our interview On Air with WDFW Officer Jones about the daily life of a warden partnered with a karelian bear dog.
(Article #1610) To read the actual news story click here...
Mountain lion tragically killed for defending itself (3/24/2015)
A mountain lion was unfortunately shot and killed by a park ranger in the employee housing area of Glacier National Park in West Glacier Saturday evening.
The incident started around 5 p.m. when the two dogs of a returning park employee unexpectedly raced out of her car and attacked a mountain lion that was lingering nearby.
One of the dogs broke off the fight and quickly retreated back to its owner who had chased after her pets. The other dog however was unable or unwilling to retreat despite efforts from its owner and that of several other housing residents who heard the fight and tried to assist.
Bear spray and a shovel were used, and rocks and logs thrown in a futile effort to stop the fight but to no avail.
The two fighting animals eventually fell over an embankment where the mountain lion pinned the dog near the edge of the Flathead River.
At that point a park ranger arrived on scene and shot the lion. The released dog jumped into the river to escape the encounter where he was later rescued by the ranger with non-life threatening injuries.
Glacier National Park headquarters and its employee housing area had been previously posted with notices about mountain lions frequenting the employee area over the winter months. In addition, a mountain lion had been hazed earlier this winter after being observed in the employee housing area. It is undetermined at this time whether the hazed lion was the same animal involved in Saturday's incident.
Park rangers believe that additional lions may also be in the headquarters' developed area. The park will continue to implement management actions in the area as appropriate, including posting the area to lion frequenting, educational outreach to employees and visitors, area and/or trail closures, hazing and possible removal. These actions are consistent with park management plans.
More information about Protecting People, Pets and Livestock is available on our website, including tips for Staying Safe while Hiking and Biking in cougar country.
(Article #1605) To read the actual news story click here...
Nebraskan farmer kills cowering mountain lion kitten (3/13/2015)
Earlier this week, a farmer and his neighbor were working outside a farmhouse located about five miles south of the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska. During the course of their work they heard growling coming from under the farmhouse porch. Further investigation by the pair revealed a frightened mountain lion kitten cowering in the dark.
The farmer proceeded to shoot and kill the animal when he was unable to get the scared kitten to voluntarily exit from its hiding space.
Authorities from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission were notified and the resulting examination showed the mountain lion kitten to be a 4 or 5 month old male, weighing about 40 pounds. It also appeared to be in poor condition with signs of earlier injuries.
Nebraska state law permits people who feel threatened by a mountain lion to shoot the animal.
There is no word yet on whether the killer of this mountain lion kitten will be charged or if he will claim that he felt threatened by the animal.
There have been no documented cases of any mountain lion attacking humans since they started recolonizing the northwest corner of Nebraska in 1991
(Article #1604) To read the actual news story click here...
South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Commission rejects challenges to stop the hounding of lions (3/12/2015)
During last Friday's public hearing, the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission (SDGFPC) rejected two challenges to a new rule allowing the use of hounds for hunting mountain lions on private land outside the Black Hills.
The first challenge was a letter questioning the legality of SDGFPC's approval of the new hounding rule since it hadn't passed a review by the state Legislature's Interim Rules Review Committee.
The second challenge was a petition submitted by Dr. Tom Huhnerkoch D.V.M. of Lead, calling for the repeal of the hound hunting rule.
Dr. Huhnerkoch's petition stated that the new hounding rule was made to benefit a small minority group and that there is no problem with mountain lions outside the Black Hills.
In its resolution rejecting Dr. Huhnerkoch's petition, the SDGFPC stated that hunting mountain lions with hounds is an accepted practice elsewhere in the United States and that the Department is well within its rights to allow hound hunting outside the Black Hills. The Commission's resolution said hound hunting provides a recreational opportunity and can help reduce actual livestock losses and the perceived threat of mountain lions.
(Article #1603) To read the actual news story click here...
New Mexico Varmint Bill Stopped (3/10/2015)
Calling it one of the worst pieces of legislation they had seen, members of the New Mexico House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee voted 5-0 yesterday to defeat HB 586, proposed legislation to reclassify mountain lions in New Mexico as varmints.
The bill's author, State Representative Zach Cook, originally tried unsuccessfully to avoid controversy by referring to HB 586 as a "cleanup bill" and "not one of significant change." Last Friday, he even tried to overshadow disapproval from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish by having its former Director, Jim Lane tout the bill before a sympathetic agricultural committee where Lane called the bill "a common-sense" means of better controlling cougar populations.
Fortunately, vocal protests from the Mountain Lion Foundation's members, as well as those of sportsman and conservation groups, such as the Animal Protection Voters, New Mexico Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, and the Republicans for Environmental Protection proved sufficient to raise public awareness.
Unwilling to face even more opposition, Cook tried to save his bill by having a colleague, State Representative Jim Smith of Sandia Park, move to have the measure be tabled until a more auspicious time. That move was denied and HB 586 was unanimously voted down.
For more information, review our HB 586 Action Alert. Thank you to everyone who called and wrote letters to the New Mexico legislature to help kill this terrible bill.
(Article #1602) To read the actual news story click here...
New Mexico moves forward on legisation to kill more lions (3/9/2015)
This story was written by Milan Simonich and originally posted on the Santa Fe New Mexican website
Cougars would become an unprotected species in New Mexico under a bill that advanced Friday in the Legislature.
The House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee sent the measure forward without recommendation on an 8-2 vote.
The bill would overturn the law that requires a license to hunt cougars. Instead, the mountain cats could be shot or trapped at any time and in any number, putting them in the same league as skunks and coyotes.
Animals are the focus of a number of high-profile bills. Last week, the House wildlife committee killed a bill to outlaw coyote-killing contests. But the full House of Representatives has approved a bill to better protect animals in zoos by adding a criminal penalty.
Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, is sponsoring the measure to eliminate protection of cougars, which he called "a cleanup bill," not one of significant change. Former state game and fish director Jim Lane, serving as Cook's expert, did most of the talking. He presented the bill as "a common-sense" means of better controlling cougar populations.
Lane said cougars inhabit parts of the state that hunters never reach, so the bill would not threaten to make them extinct. He said 2,000 to 2,500 hunting licenses for cougars are sold in New Mexico each year, but kills number only about 200.
Former state senator Tim Jennings, a Democrat from Roswell, held a stuffed lamb as he testified for the bill. He said the sheep industry once flourished in New Mexico, and predators are one of the main reasons for its steep decline.
Ranchers testified that they have been plagued by drought and cannot afford the losses of livestock caused by cougars. And Republican Rep. Andy Nunez, a committee member from Hatch who voted for the bill, said he saw an enormous cougar prowling a golf course in Las Cruces. Nunez said mountains cats are encroaching on cities.
Opponents of the bill far outnumbered those who supported it.
They said Cook's bill was devoid of any science and called it "a knee-jerk reaction" to anecdotal reports of runaway cougar populations killing pets and livestock.
John Crenshaw of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation testified against the bill, saying it was flawed because it removes protection for females and even cubs.
Other critics of the bill said it is illogical, taking away the legal authority of professionals in the state Department of Game and Fish to manage cougar populations.
William Wiley, of the state chapter of Republicans for Environmental Protection, condemned the proposal. "I am full of fury, and I am full of disgust for this bill," he said.
A woman from Albuquerque had a similar assessment: "The only killing that should be done today is to kill this bill," she said.
The Department of Game and Fish "conservatively estimated" that 3,000 to 4,500 cougars inhabit New Mexico.
Alexandra Sandoval, director of the department, said her agency would have no legal authority to respond to complaints about cougars if the bill were approved and signed into law by the governor. She said the department estimates that 700 kills of cougars annually would be the right management number, but it is proceeding with tracking some lions with GPS collars in hopes of getting a better understanding of the population.
Democratic Reps. Bill McCamley of Mesilla Park and Bobby Gonzales of Taos voted against the bill. A mix of Democrats and Republicans supported it.
The bill has two more committee assignments in the House of Representatives. If it clears both, it would reach the full 70-member House for a floor vote.
Help the Mountain Lion Foundation kill this bill; visit our Stop New Mexico House Bill 586 ACTION ALERT. (Article #1601) To read the actual news story click here...
Chambers still fighting for Nebraska's lions (3/2/2015)
The following story was written by AP reporter, Grant Schulte and originally posted on the Lubbock Avalanche Journal website.
Nebraska's longest-serving senator vowed Thursday to outlaw mountain lion hunting in Nebraska even if he has to circumvent a legislative committee to bring it to a vote.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said Nebraska's mountain lion population is so small that the state has no need for a hunting season. As of June, the Game and Parks Commission estimates that 22 mountain lions lived in northwest Nebraska's Pine Ridge region, one of the few habitable areas for the animals.
"Wildlife is a resource for everyone in this state, not just hunters and people who want to see one through a rifle scope," Chambers told the Natural Resources Committee.
Chambers said he objects to hunting tactics such as using dogs to chase mountain lions up a tree and shooting them when they have no way to escape. His bill to end Nebraska's state-sanctioned hunting faces opposition from some committee members, who view it as a useful tool to control the population.
Chambers said that if the committee doesn't send his bill to a vote in the Legislature this year, he'll try to pull it out using procedural motions. If that fails, the longtime animal welfare advocate said he'll attach it as an amendment to other bills.
"I'm not going to try to change your mind, but I'm letting you know - be ready for whatever happens," he said. "... We will be talking about mountain lions all session."
Chambers came close to passing similar legislation last year, but it was vetoed by former Gov. Dave Heineman. Chambers attempted twice to override the veto, and when that failed he attached it as an amendment to every bill awaiting a vote on the session's final day.
The Game and Parks Commission opposes the bill, saying it wants the authority to manage the mountain lion population through hunting. The commission plans to spend $60,000 annually over the next three years for research that could help keep the population sustainable, said Jim Douglas, the executive director.
Hunting groups and the Sidney-based retail outfitting chain Cabela's testified against the bill, saying state biologists should decide how to preserve the population.
"The decision should be made on a scientific basis, not a political basis," said Kevin Werts, an executive at Cabela's.
Western Nebraska senators also oppose the bill, raising concerns about attacks on livestock.
Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala, the committee chairman, said he opposed the bill but was willing to support state funding for research into ways to control the population. Schilz said lawmakers should trust Game and Parks experts to manage the animals responsibly.
Lawmakers approved mountain-lion hunting in 2012, while Chambers was out of office due to term limits.
Mountain lions are native to Nebraska, but vanished in the late 1800s after settlers started poisoning and hunting them. Nebraska has four areas where mountain lion hunting is permitted, and the commission determines which areas can sustain hunting each session.
The Game and Parks Commission canceled this year's hunting season after at least seven mountain lions were killed outside of the official 2014 season. Some were hunted illegally, trapped or struck by vehicles. Those seven died before the Game and Parks estimated the Pine Ridge population was 22, so the number prior to that was likely higher.
Last year, nearly 400 people applied for one of 100 available permits in northwest Nebraska's Pine Ridge district, where most mountain lions are believed to reside.
Sign the Petition to Keep Mountain Lions from Being Hunted in Nebraska (Article #1600) To read the actual news story click here...
Two Montana lion hunters get slap on the wrist for killing a family of lions (2/25/2015)
In January, authorities with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) received a tip that two men, Dwain Robertson and Douglas Smith, had trespassed onto private property, in a region closed to mountain lion hunting, and had possession of the carcass of a juvenile mountain lion.
Investigation of the tip led the landowner and MFWP wardens to the carcass of a female lion at the killing site along with blood in the tracks of another juvenile lion that had wandered off but was never found due to severe winter conditions.
A warranted search of their properties produced sufficient evidence (including the carcass of a 1-year old lion) to charge the two men.
On February 3rd, Dwain Robertson, plead guilty and was fined $3,075 for attempting to take an over limit of mountain lions ($635), unlawful possession of a lion ($535), hunting during a closed season ($535) and two counts of trespass ($370). Robertson was also ordered to pay $1,000 restitution and had his hunting, trapping and fishing privileges revoked for 4 years.
Douglas Smith, plead guilty and was fined $605 for two counts of criminal trespass ($370) and driving off established roads ($235).
Smith plead not guilty to unlawful possession of a mountain lion. No trial date has been scheduled yet. If found guilty, Smith could be fined an additional $535 and loose his hunting, trapping and fishing privileges for two years.
(Article #1599) To read the actual news story click here...
Nebraska's mountain lion automobile license plate bill passes 1st hurdle (2/18/2015)
In addition to authoring Nebraska's Legislative Bill 127 to remove the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission's (NGPC) authority to issue hunting licenses for mountain lions, State Senator Ernie Chambers has also introduced legislation to help Nebraskan's better understand these special creatures.
Legislative Bill 474, which passed the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee on a 6-0 vote, would create a specialty "mountain lion conservation" license plate. Proceeds from sales of the specialty plates, estimated at $19,000 a year, would help finance programs to educate the public about wildlife conservation: including mountain lions.
Debate on Legislative Bill 474 has not yet been scheduled.
(Article #1598) To read the actual news story click here...
An Iowan's fight to protect mountain lions is thwarted by obstinate legislator (2/11/2015)
Shane Griffin's quest to protect Iowa's fledgling mountain lion population ran head on into the hard inflexible opinion of Iowa State Representative Clel Baudler today when House File 117, "an Act prohibiting the hunting or taking of cougars" failed on a 2-to-1 vote.
Baulder, who chairs the 3-member subcommittee of a larger 21-member House Natural Resources Committee had pretty much made up his mind about how Iowa's mountain lions should be treated long before the bill, HF 117, was even heard.
In an interview last week, Representative Baulder was dismissive of the safety advice posted by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and boasted that he didn't expect Griffin''s bill to move past his subcommittee.
"I don't want them to get established," Baudler said.
Now it appears that Representative Baulder will have his way and Iowa's few mountain lions will continue to face what constitutes a shoot-on-sight order as they try to reestablish the species in that state.
(Article #1597) To read the actual news story click here...
Protection for lions faces a rocky road in Iowa (2/6/2015)
The following story was written by Kyle Munson, and originally posted on-line under the title Munson: One man's mountain lion mission by the Des Moines Tribune
NEVADA, Ia. - Shane Griffin's loner crusade to protect Iowa's mountain lions began as he struggled to finish a story.
A few years ago he was writing a fictional account of a war veteran who embarks on a deer hunt in Iowa with his daughter. He wanted to introduce a wild animal to symbolize the main character's own fears dredged up from his past.
That's when Griffin noticed a news report about a mountain lion that had been shot in western Iowa.
His writerly quest for a mere plot element led to Griffin's deep sympathy for these majestic 150-pound cats when he realized that they had been driven out of Iowa for more than a century. In the last 20 years they've trickled back in from the West.
"I'm just a citizen who picked up a couple of books and thought something was wrong and wanted to change it," he said.
At this point Griffin, a 43-year-old Des Moines firefighter and paramedic who lives on an acreage north of Nevada, might be Iowa mountain lions' best friend as he lobbies lawmakers on their behalf. (The big cats also are called cougars, pumas and a host of other names.)
This week he was on the prowl again at the state Capitol.
Griffin prodded his local representative, Republican Dave Deyoe of Nevada, to introduce a bill last week: "An act prohibiting the hunting or taking of cougars and making penalties applicable."
Click here to read HF 117
More than a century ago when fur-bearing critters were written into the Iowa Code there were no mountain lions to speak of. So the list stopped with beaver, badger, mink, otter, muskrat, raccoon, skunk, opossum, spotted skunk or civet cat, weasel, coyote, bobcat, wolf, groundhog, red fox, and gray fox.
Ron Andrews, now retired in Clear Lake, spent more than 44 years as an Iowa Department of Natural Resources furbearer resource specialist.
"Initially we kind of thought people were hallucinating," Andrews said of the sightings that preceeded a big cat that was hit and killed by a car near Harlan in 2001 - essentially the year that mountain lions roared back to life in Iowa as a hot topic.
There have been 19 confirmed mountain lions statewide in the last two decades, seven of the animals were shot or killed by vehicles.
One sighting was confirmed last year. There also were two probable and 14 unconfirmed reports in 2014.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of the thousands of reported sightings tend to be anything from a bobcat to a large dog.
The elusive mountain lions have no status under Iowa law, and it's likely to stay that way in a state where livestock and wild game such as pheasants are prized.
"The agricultural politics of Iowa is going to make that very, very difficult," Andrews said of the prospects for passage of Griffin's bill or anything similar.
"I've already heard from a couple of hunting groups that are concerned that I filed the bill," Deyoe admitted.
Vince Evelsizer, the DNR's furbearer and wetland biologist who has followed in Andrews' paw prints, admits that cougars are a "polarizing topic." And the DNR as an institution remains neutral in the debate.
Griffin is "taking the right approach with ... doing what he can to try to get it introduced into the Legislature," Evelsizer said. "And whether it goes through or not I think it's good to foster that discussion."
State Rep. Clel Baudler doesn't expect Griffin's bill to move past his natural resources subcommittee for one major reason: "Because mountain lions eat people."
"I don't want them to get established," Baudler said of the cats. "I want them to be in fear of humans."
He scoffed at the recommendation to "look larger" if confronted by a mountain lion.
"If you're a 5-, 9-, 10-year-old kid," Baudler said, "how do you look larger to scare a mountain lion away?"
A mountain lion advocate such as Griffin faces a tough fight on multiple fronts. On one hand, people fear being eaten.
Then there are hunters who would like to be allowed to kill more of the beasts.
Ted Nugent recently posted a photo on Facebook that showed fellow musician Kid Rock proudly displaying a freshly slain mountain lion.
"HAIL my Motor City boy Kid Rock for saving all those muledeer elk & livestock by whacking this magnificent mountain lion," Nugent wrote.
Griffin sees mountain lions as a central ethical debate on how we intend to relate to nature, similar to Iowa's brewing legal war over water quality.
"To me there's such a hangover from the settlement days of come in, dominate, make it yours, produce off of it," he said.
Mike Rentz, a lecturer in Iowa State University's natural resource ecology and management department, recently moved from Minnesota, where cougars, black bears and other large predators are more common.
He'd like to see mountain lions make more of a national comeback. They're all but invisible to humans, he said, if they're "not persecuted, not hunted, not harassed."
"There are wolves in Duluth, Minn., that are in town, in the city limits," Rentz added, "and you just never see them."
The first wolf documented in 89 years in Iowa was shot by a coyote hunter last year in Buchanan County.
If we were to act based solely on statistics, Iowans should be shooting the more numerous unleashed dogs on sight as the true hazard to kids.
Lightning strikes and bee stings are greater threats than mountain lions.
Missouri established its own Mountain Lion Response Team in 1996, where state law dispenses with the clunky need to specify certain species and simply protects all fur-bearing wildlife - while still allowing people to kill the animals to defend themselves and their property.
Among the national statistics compiled by Missouri: The risk for a dog attack is 1 in 208,000, compared with 1 in 6.25 million for a mountain lion attack.
"They're not these bloodthirsty killers that people think," said Griffin, a father with three daughters of his own - ages 14, 15 and 19 - to protect.
About 25 fatal and 95 nonfatal mountain lion attacks have been recorded within the last century in all of North America.
To be sure, the attacks that do happen can be harrowing: A 6-year-old boy survived an attack by a lion in September near Cupertino, Calif.
They also can be simultaneously comical and disturbing: A woman in Colorado fended off a mountain lion last summer in part by loudly singing opera.
No matter what happens in Iowa, the big cats' numbers might be winnowed because of what's happening in our neighboring states to the West.
Tim Dunbar, executive director of the Mountain Lion Foundation based in California, said that his organization has been watching Iowa because we're on the "cutting edge of lions coming into the state."
"Some policy changes both in South Dakota and Wyoming have been really hammering that population very hard," he said.
South Dakota opened its first mountain lion hunting season a decade ago. There have been at least 19 cats killed already this year - all but one of those by hunters. The remaining lion was hit by a vehicle.
Nebraska's first mountain lion hunting season last year saw five cats killed by hunters but 16 total deaths, 10 of them females.
The state skipped a hunting season this year and will study the issue for a few more years.
Male cougars tend to roam east in a direct line, searching for a date.
Females, meanwhile, tend to stray no farther than about 25 miles from where they were born - hence the migration of large numbers of the cats tends to be slow.
The first confirmed cougar in Kentucky since before the Civil War was killed there in December.
One mountain lion hit and killed by a car four years ago in Connecticut had strayed all the way from South Dakota.
That last cat's trek sounds like an odyssey ripe for one of Griffin's stories.
After all, it's much easier writing mountain lions into fiction than into Iowa law.
MOUNTAIN LION FACTS
SIZE: 6 to 9 feet long
WEIGHT: 100 to 150 pounds
LIFE EXPECTANCY: Reach reproductive maturity at age 3 and live 12 to 20 years
OFFSPRING: Two to three kits per litter (peak birth rate in July) that remain with the female for up to 18 months
DIET: Deer, small mammals, rabbits, beavers, raccoons, coyotes
BEHAVIOR: Readily climb trees to escape dogs or obtain food, capable of swimming
TERRITORY: Females range 15 to 30 square miles, males 50 to 135 square miles.
Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources
WHAT TO DO IF CONFRONTED BY A MOUNTAIN LION
1. DON'T RUN! Running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase.
2. Stand tall, look big, puff up, and lift your coat over your shoulders.
3. Take control of the situation. Scream loudly, throw objects.
4. Gather children close and slowly back away, keeping your eye on the animal.
5. If attacked, fight back vigorously with sharp objects and poke the eyes of the animal.
Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources
CONFIRMED MOUNTAIN LION SIGHTINGS IN IOWA, BY YEAR
Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Kyle Munson can be reached at 515-284-8124 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See more of his columns and video at DesMoinesRegister.com/KyleMunson. Connect with him on Facebook (/KyleMunson) and Twitter (@KyleMunson).
(Article #1596) To read the actual news story click here...
CDFW rescues starving mountain lion kitten from California beach (2/3/2015)
Responding to a report, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) warden Jared Strouss spotted a small, wet, female mountain lion kitten sitting on some rocks on the beach about a mile south of Islay Creek in Montana de Oro State Park late Sunday afternoon.
"I don't know if she fell in, but when I saw her she was sunning herself, and I wanted to give her time to get back up and into the wild on her own," he said. "Sometimes it's better to back off, and they [the animals] will find their way out, but it didn't work that way this time."
When the authorities checked the following morning they found that the lion kitten still hadn't left the beach and returned to her mother. According to Strouss she was seen on the beach, occasionally moving around on the sand. "She should have been able to get up [the cliff]," Strouss said. "Lions climb very well."
At that point it was decided that the little lion needed rescuing.
Initially CDFW biologist Bob Stafford and a Cal Fire firefighter intended to tranquilize the young lion, but it turned out that they were able to just grab the kitten and stuff her into a bag. The little lion was then lifted from the beachside cove and evaluated.
Weighing 25 pounds and estimated to be around 6-months-old, the young animal appeared to be in healthy condition.
"She's a little tired from where she was at, but she was in pretty good shape," Strouss said. "We gave her some fluids and antibiotics, and she is on her way to a wildlife lab in Sacramento."
The mountain lion may stay there a month or more and will eventually be released back in Montana de Oro, he said.
"I think they wanted her to have a bit more fat on her bones," Strouss said. "She was pretty feisty by the time we got her some fluids."
Photo courtesy of KSBY Channel 6 news.
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Oregon Fish and Wildlife thumbs its nose at conservationists by killing another innocent lion (2/2/2015)
Last Friday afternoon, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) proved once again that they don't care how other states handle wandering mountain lions by first capturing and then killing a young dispersing lion found in the rural community of Bend, Oregon.
It all started when local law enforcement officers responded to a call from a resident who said that a mountain lion was lounging high in a tree in the forested area behind his house. At first there was some disbelief on the part of the First Responders, but that quickly changed once they arrived on the scene.
"A lot of times we get calls about cougars, and they're not -- it's just a really large cat," said Bend Police Corporal Rob Emerson. "It was in fact a cougar, so it was kind of exciting."
Officers from the Bend Police Department quickly contained the area and a ODFW biologist climbed onto a nearby roof and shot the animal with a tranquilizer rifle.
Once the lion had fallen asleep, "We climbed the tree, hooked a rope over it and lowered him down," said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Corey Heath. A team then lifted the cougar into a box and took it to ODFW offices.
Heath said that the lion was a young male, weighing approximately 120 pounds and was most likely just passing through the area looking for deer that have come down from higher elevations for the winter.
At this point in either Washington or California the lion would have been moved further from town and released back into the wild, but not in Oregon.
"A male adult cat in the middle of Bend is a human safety condition," Heath said. "We're not going to move that animal to become a problem in some other town, some other community."
Heath went on to excuse ODFW's actions by claiming that catch-and-release efforts often don't work.
Heath did not explain why the animal had to be removed from the public's view before it was killed or why ODFW refuses to implement proven non-lethal relocation procedures now used by several state game agencies.
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Nebraska Decides Not to Hold a Lion Hunt this Year (1/15/2015)
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Director Jim Douglas announced today that there will be no mountain lion hunting season in 2015.
Claiming that the Commission's decision was not a result of the controversy generated by Nebraska's inaugural lion hunt, Director Douglas indicated that they needed to review the situation and that there might be a mountain lion hunt in 2016.
At the beginning of the 2014 lion hunting season,the Commission estimated that Nebraska might have 22 resident mountain lions.
Last year, there were 16 documented mountain lion deaths in Nebraska, including five killed legally by hunters; four killed legally because people felt threatened; three incidentally trapped; two killed by vehicles; and two taken illegally.
Ten of the mountain lions killed were females, which Director Douglas cited as a factor in the Commission's decision to not have a hunting season this year.
In addition, the Commission budgeted $60,000 for radio collars, trail cameras and three years of scat surveys to "better understand and manage the mountain lion population."
There is no indication that State Senator Ernie Chambers plans to stop his legislative efforts (LB127) to remove the Commission's authority to hold mountain lion hunts.
(Article #1592) To read the actual news story click here...
2nd round for Nebraska's Mountain Lions: Senator Chambers is still in the fight! (1/12/2015)
Last Friday, Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers made good on his promise and introduced legislation (LB127) removing the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission's (NGPC) authority to issue hunting licenses for mountain lions this year.
Similar legislation was introduced by Senator Chambers last year, but could not override Governor Heineman's veto.
The question now is whether the NGPC will acknowledge the pending legislation by holding off on authorizing a second year of lion hunting at their January 15th meeting, or decide to quickly ram through a 2nd hunting season in the hopes that it will fulfill its quota before LB127 can pass and be signed into law.
And even if LB127 successfully becomes law and the Commission doesn't issue lion hunting tags in 2015, the threat to Nebraska's lions is far from over. Mountain lions are still classified as game animals in Nebraska and the NGPC has stated that it's their responsibility to allow "some appropriate level of hunting along the way."
So until Nebraska's mountain lions are protected under a different classification the question of whether or not they are hunted is sure to come up again sometime in the near future.
(Article #1590) To read the actual news story click here...
Mountain Lions Could Return to New England (1/7/2015)
The following story was originally written by the Associated Press and posted on January 2, 2015 on the Centralmaine.com website.
A Vermont animal tracker known nationally for her expertise in tracking cougars believes the big cats will eventually return to the Northeastern United States and neighboring parts of Canada, but she says the region won't see large numbers of them anytime soon.
The forests of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and upstate New York have ideal cougar habitat, meaning plentiful forest cover and large animals to sustain a cougar population, said Sue Morse of Jericho, the science director and founder of the organization Keeping Track.
"Back in the '80s, I just looked at that huge expanse of country between the Rockies, the western slope of the Rockies and here, and I thought to myself 'how can this happen?'" said Morse.
Since then, scientists have tracked the animals moving out of South Dakota into Midwestern states. Cougars also are moving north into Manitoba, the Canadian province to the west of Ontario, which Morse considers their most likely route back to the Northeast.
"We need our apex carnivores in a big way," Morse said. "We need them for the health of our forests. Our forests are being ravaged by too many deer in some places."
The animals are known by a variety of names: mountain lion, puma, panther, catamount. Vermont's last known cougar was killed in 1881 in Barnard. The animal, now stuffed, is on display at the Vermont Historical Society in Montpelier.
"It's a known fact that dispersing tom cougars will go hundreds, if not thousands of miles as they search for a habitat in which they can settle down in the company of females and call home," said Morse.
The challenge is the females are more likely to stay near their home range, but they too will sometimes move into new territory, she said.
Scientists say sightings of individual cougars are possible, but they're skeptical that breeding populations of cougars will return to the region on their own.
Mary Parkin, endangered species recovery coordinator for the Northeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agrees the region has suitable habitat for cougars and male cougars do pass through.
"The trick is getting that female there, they would have to be brought in," she said, adding that was unaware of any effort to bring cougars back to the Northeast.
Mark Scott, director of wildlife for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, said his agency regularly receives reports of cougar sightings and it's possible that individual cougars could be spotted in Vermont, but he calls the possibility of a breeding population returning to the state "a long shot."
"It used to be if someone saw a mountain lion they'd say 'I'm not going to tell anybody because they're going to think I'm crazy,'" Scott said. "But people shouldn't feel that way today. There really is a possibility that if they see a large cat, obviously it needs to have a long tail - they could be seeing the real thing."
Other scientists say there's no question the animals are moving far from what is considered their current range. In 2011, a cougar was hit by a car and killed on a Connecticut highway. Subsequent DNA testing found that the animal was from South Dakota.
Morse said the animals regularly confound scientists by doing the unexpected. It could take 30 years (Morse hopes less) for a breeding population to return.
"I am looking forward to seeing how these animals pull it off because I'm convinced they will," she said.
Susan Morse is a dedicated supporter of the Mountain Lion Foundation and a nationally recognized naturalist and habitat specialist with forty years of experience tracking and interoperating wildlife uses of habitat throughout North America. Ms. Morse is also the photographer whose work can be seen on MLF's 2015 mountain lion calendar.
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Utah game wardens start the New Year off right by saving a wayward lion (1/5/2015)
This New Year's weekend, a Salt Lake City family got a rare chance to not only see a mountain lion up close, they also got to see Utah Division of Wildlife Resources(UDWR) wardens take the rare, but correct step of helping a young mountain lion.
The Stringhams were vacationing at a friend's cabin near Bear Lake, which is located in the upper Northeastern corner of the state, when someone noticed something hiding under the cabin porch. A quick check with flashlights highlighted the dark figure of a lion with glowing eyes and authorities were notified.
When the responding UDWR wardens arrived on scene they found the lion still hiding under the porch. After determining that it wasn't a life-threatening situation the wardens decided to take the steps necessary to capture the animal.
It took several tranquilizer darts to eventually subdue the scared lion, but when it was finally dragged from its hiding space and evaluated, the lion (sex undetermined) turned out to be 2 to 3-years old and weighing approximately 130 pounds.
After letting the children photograph and pet the drugged lion, the wardens proceeded to attach an identification ear tag and drive it to a remote location where it was release back into the wild where hopefully it might also survive this year's hunting season.
To encourage Utah DWR to continue to handle mountain lion encounters with non-lethal force, please consider sending a brief thank you email to the department: DWRcomment@utah.gov
(Article #1588) To read the actual news story click here...
2014 record year for panther deaths - Can the Florida panther survive? (12/30/2014)
Today, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a non-profit advocacy organization, reported that 2014 was a very bad year for the Florida panther. During this past year 30 members of that endangered species were killed with more than a third of those deaths females of kitten-bearing age.
According to PEER, panther mortality this year could represent as much as one-fourth of the entire population, with the majority of those deaths (27) occurring in three counties (Collier, Lee and Hendry), and 17 of the total mortalities the result of motor vehicle accidents.
"The management of the Florida panther is biology by body count," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission figures show only 32 kittens born this year, but the survival rate of panther kittens is low with only 50 percent expected to survive to dispersal-age. This means that panther deaths are likely to exceed replacement from new litters. "The true condition of the Florida panther today remains what biologists call a 'SWAG'- a scientific wild-ass guess."
Despite being protected as an endangered species by the Federal government for the past 40-years, the Florida panther is clinging to survival with a population that is thought to number somewhere between 100 to 160 adult animals living on a habitat area in southwest Florida that represents just five percent of its original range.
While the Florida panther is increasingly imperiled by habitat loss, vehicle collisions, and loss of genetic diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has yet to designate critical habitat to protect what little viable habitat area remains for the iconic cat. Despite agreement by biologists that the species faces a high likelihood of extinction in the absence of protections for its remaining habitat, FWS continues to approve new roads and other development in the heart of panther country.
In the period from 1984 to 2009, FWS approved 127 developments in areas that it deemed could adversely affect the panther. Those projects destroyed nearly 100,000 acres of panther habitat while less than 42,000 acres were "preserved" either on or offsite of the projects. It is unclear how many of those preserved acres actually benefit the panther.
The Florida panther's survival appears to depend on the protection of remaining undeveloped lands throughout Florida, as well as the eventual natural migration beyond the state's confining borders.
Unfortunately, a large portion of that habitat is already slated for development, and developers might also receive authorization to "take"-harass, harm, or kill-any panther or other protected species as they modify, pave over, and develop their habitat.
In addition, Florida's neighbors have not shown any willingness to allow the expansion of the Florida panther into their states.
According to Jeff Ruch, "In South Florida, the panther literally is a speed bump to sprawling development. Many believe we have already reached the tipping point where a viable population of Florida panther can no longer exist in the wild and the future of this alpha-predator is as a zoo species."
(Article #1587) To read the actual news story click here...
Few Rules, No Protections For Kentucky's Mountain Lions (12/24/2014)
The following story was originally written by Richard Essex and posted on the LEX18.com website
The killing of a mountain lion by state conservation officers has generated a discussion about whether the big cat should have been protected.
LEX 18 Investigates looked into Kentucky's rules regarding mountain lions and found there are very few, and none offer protected or endangered status to the animal.
The only regulation we could find is that mountain lions are prohibited from being imported and owned in most circumstances.
Mountain lions, like the one killed in Bourbon County last week, are classified by state law as "inherently dangerous wildlife," and it is one of few once-native species on the list - which also includes rhinoceroses, baboons and komodo dragons.
The law, enacted in 1998, allows local governments to regulate the possession of such animals.
However, according to some wildcat advocates, the lack of statewide regulation should change in the face of evidence that mountain lions could be migrating back east of the Mississippi River.
"I would like to see states put some protections in place," said Amy Rodrigues, biologist with the California-based Mountain Lion Foundation.
State officials say the mountain lion killed in Bourbon County is the first seen in the state since the Civil War. The species is classified as a "extirpated," meaning it has been driven from the area.
Mountain lions are most commonly found in the West and Midwest United States. However, they can thrive in most climates have been known to migrate hundreds or thousands of miles looking for food, mates and a place to live.
In 2011, for example, a mountain lion hit and killed by a car in Connecticut was thought to have traveled from South Dakota.
Although the Bourbon County mountain lion was the first verified sighting in Kentucky decades, there have been hundreds of reports and a few blurry pictures and videos of suspected mountain lions all over the state.
In 2012, Ashland neighborhoods were put on alert after several people reported seeing one. And in 2010, sightings were reported in Harrison and Mason counties.
Rodrigues said, ideally, Kentucky game officials would have caught the lion and put a radio collar on it to see where it went.
Instead, conservation officers shot it.
"A lot of these people have never seen a mountain lion before, so I can understand the concern for public safety, but just because they see a mountain lion doesn't mean it's a threat," Rodriguez said. "These cats don't view us a food. Attacks are extremely rare. Fatalities are even more rare."
In California, which has a large population of the animal, there have been 13 attacks since 1986, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Three were fatal.
However, officials say mountain lions are solitary animals that generally don't pose a threat to humans unless cornered or threatened.
Their solitary nature could be why reports remain unverified, or the sightings could be bogus. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife told LEX 18 Investigates there is a good chance the Bourbon County lion was raised in captivity.
There are no reports of captive mountain lions escaping from a licensed facility in Kentucky or surrounding states, and an investigation is underway to find out where the cat came from.
DNA from the cat is being tested, which could help. Researchers used DNA in the 2011 case in Connecticut to track the mountain lion's origins.
State officials say the decision to shoot the animal was made to protect public safety, because it was close to populated areas and getting dark.
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