Earlier this month the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation received reports of a large animal roadkilled on the side of highway 81, just southwest of Oklahoma City. The animal turned out to be a 130-pound mountain lion.
This male lion appeared to be between one and two years old, which is the normal time for juvenile lions to begin leaving their mother in search of a homerange. Lions are solitary and require approximately one hundred square miles each of suitable habitat. Finding open real estate often means traveling far or kicking out an established resident--which is hard for a young lion to do.
Oklahoma is on the outskirts of the eastern edge of the species' current range (aside from the Florida panther subspecies). The sport hunting season on mountain lions just began in Colorado and New Mexico. Perhaps this lion's mother was killed by a hunter, or he was simply ready to set out on his own in search of a homerange. Unfortunately he didn't make it. Although the death of this lion is sad, it is a reminder that the species is fully capable of re-establishing populations in the east on its own. If only we could stop shooting them and hitting them with our cars. Protection laws and habitat connectivity are crucial for the long term survival of the America lion.