On Saturday, a young female mountain lion turned up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The nearest population of lions is about 500 miles to the west in New Mexico. And habitat modeling research indicates a wild lion is probably more likely to wander up from southwest Texas. Young lions can disperse hundreds of miles from home and the cats are skilled at traveling completely unseen by people. Yet, despite these abilities, mountain lions very rarely turn up in Oklahoma. In this case, the lion was tranquilized by officials and transported to the Tulsa Zoo. She reportedly is doing well and began to eat on Monday.
An entertaining side note: in the few days that have passed since her capture, sighting reports of lions have skyrocketed in Oklahoma -- which is typical after a verified cougar encounter in a state that does not have a population of the cats. Residents now have what many people call "cougar fever" and are claiming to be seeing the cats everywhere. In rural Grady County, for example, residents are on the hunt for what they say is a black panther that has been attacking cattle. There has never been a scientifically proven case of a melanistic (appearing black) cougar. The commonly referenced "black panther" is generally a melanistic jaguar or leopard, both of which if found in Oklahoma would be escaped exotic pets. For now, officials believe any livestock attacks in the area are likely the work of coyotes or domestic dogs.