Stories of mountain lions being spotted east of the Great Plains pop up in the news a handful of times each year. Some reveal first-hand accounts of mountain lion sightings, some show trail camera photos of cougars, some discuss evidence of mountain lions — footprints, hair, scat, kills, etc., and others have statements from wildlife officials confirming sightings or distinct evidence of the big cats.
But I can’t remember ever seeing so many stories about mountain lion sightings in a one-week period. Here are the stories I’ve come across in the last week alone:
- Oct. 20 – Scottsbluff, Neb. — “Game officers shoot mountain lion near Scottsbluff”
- Oct. 21 – Union, Neb. — “Game and Parks investigating report of mountain lion in southeast Nebraska area”
- Oct. 24 – Lyndeborough, N.H. — “While state denies mountain lions are in NH, numerous sightings say otherwise”
- Oct. 26 – Two Harbors, Minn. — “Trail cam captures another Minnesota mountain lion”
- Oct. 27 – Courtland, Kansas — “Official: Photos appear to show another mountain lion”
State wildlife biologists often warn, however, that sightings alone, especially those by untrained eyes, are not enough to confirm mountain lions are in the area. And when mountain lion sightings have been confirmed, in most cases, the mountain lions were males. Young male mountain lions sometimes roam hundreds of miles in search of territory or a breeding female.
In most of these states, wildlife officials say there is no evidence of breeding mountain lion populations. However, proof of reproduction was discovered in one Midwest state late last year. A trail cam photo in Nebraska revealed mountain lion kittens. It was the first evidence of mountain lion reproduction in the state in 100 years.
I’m no biologist, but I do subscribe to the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” theory. Mountain lions haven’t called most of the Midwest home for a century, but evidence is beginning to mount that cougars will soon be reclaiming some of this territory, if they haven’t already.