The Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism posted on Sunday that an adult mountain lion was seen on a trail camera in Kiowa County, around 115 miles West Of Wichita, carrying a killed porcupine. The sighting raised questions on whether mountain lions are already making themselves at home in Kansas, a state not known for wild cats.
This is cool! KDWPT staff recently reviewed a trail camera photo of a mountain lion taken in Kiowa County. The adult... Posted by Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism on Sunday, November 29, 2020
Around three months ago, a mountain lion was also sighted within a 20-mile area in which officials deem as the same mountain lion as the one recently seen.
The wildlife department said that this is the first time that "multiple photos of a cat were seen in the same area within a time frame, which indicates the presence of a resident lion."
However, it may also be a different lion who happened to be in the same area, thus it is too early to tell.
Sightings of rare lions in Kansas
According to the wildlife officials, except for the 2007 mountain lion sighting, the last confirmed sighting was in 1904.
According to Kansas wildlife research biologist Matt Peek, there have been 29 confirmed sightings since 2007. It is quite difficult to estimate the total population as some cats have been spotted multiple times, including the Kiowa County mountain lion.
State officials think that the mountains cats seem to be just passing through Kansas, rather than staying and establishing home ranges.
Reports of mountain lion sightings in Kansas sometimes turn out to be bobcats.
Authorities from National Park Service say that although the cats may look similar, bobcats are much smaller than mountain lions and have shorter tails.
Unlike other large cats, mountain lions cannot roar. They are territorial and solitary and like house cats, they growl, shriek, hiss, and purr. Territories are marked using pheromones and physical signs like claw markings and feces.
Mountain lions once thrived in Kansas
Before the European settlement, the forests and hills of Kansas and neighboring states were once home to mountain lions, the nonprofit Mountain Lion Foundation said.
However, the direct persecution, loss of its habitat due to conversion of wildlands to agriculture and human development, roads and highways led to the loss of mountain lions in Arkansas, the organization said.
In the 1800s to 1900s, mountain lions were persecuted as people feared that it poses risks to their livestock. This led to the almost eradication of the species from the eastern United States.
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Conservation of Mountain lions
Conservation efforts however increased and stabilized the population of mountain lions in western portions of the United States, although far lower than it was historically.
According to the Mountain Lion Foundation, there are likely fewer than 30,000 mountain lions in the United States. Many of these lions are situated on severely fragmented and degraded habitats and are in danger of over-hunting and roadkill.
Encountering a mountain lion
Mountain lions are dangerous if you are prey. But for humans, encounters with mountain lions are rare, particularly in Kansas, where mountain lions are apparently a rare sight. These lions also barely attack humans.
However, like any wild animal, it is important to take precautions when walking to their areas or territories. Keep children and pets close to you. A mountain lion (or any wild animal) must never be approached or cornered.
But if by any chance that you encounter a mountain lion, stop. Do not run but attempt to look big by raising your arms or opening your coat. Slowly wave your arms and speak firmly. Throw items at the lion if necessary, and give the lion the time and space to move away from you.
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