Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism biologists have been busy investigating a flurry of mountain lion reports lately. Three more mountain lion reports were confirmed in Kansas recently, bringing the total number of confirmed sightings for the year to four.
A hunter recently checked his trail camera on Fort Riley to find a photo of a mountain lion taken on Nov. 9. On Nov. 20, about 55 miles away, another hunter’s trail camera in Shawnee County snapped several photos of a mountain lion passing by at around 1 a.m.
Four days later and about 20 miles away, a couple of young raccoon hunters in Wabaunsee County were hunting with a single hound when it bayed “treed.” They were quite surprised when they shined their lights into the tree and found a mountain lion staring back at them. They had the presence of mind to take some video and snap a few photos for evidence, and even called a few friends and family out to see the lion for themselves. Biologists later visited the site and were able to recover a few hairs from the tree limbs. It is uncertain at this time whether sufficient material was present for DNA extraction, but if so, it can help biologists determine the animal’s sex, where it came from, where it has been, and where it may end up.
It is uncertain whether these recent confirmations are the result of a single or multiple cats. Young male mountain lions can wander great distances in search of a home range, and the proximity and timing of these latest sightings indicate a single lion is a possibility, but this is not a certainty. An additional sighting is still being investigated, and if confirmed, Kansas may have a record year for mountain lion sightings.
Since 2007, when the first mountain lion was confirmed in Kansas, 18 more have been added to the total. Most are presumed to be transient young male lions displaced from states north or west of Kansas. Consistent with this theory, the presence of arm barring on several of these recent confirmations is an indicator of a young (less than 3 year old) lion. A resident population, as indicated by the presence of kittens, adult females, or repeated documentations in the same vicinity, has not been observed nor confirmed.