Archery hunter photographs mountain lion near deer stand with trail camera
PRATT — In late October, an archery deer hunter caught an unexpected creature on a trail camera he had set near his Republican County deer stand. The motion-activated camera, set to take pictures of whatever moved in front of his stand at night, snapped a shot of a mountain lion walking away from the camera. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) biologists were sent a copy of the photo and believed it to be a lion. Two biologists surveyed the site and confirmed that this was indeed a picture taken in Kansas and that it was a mountain lion, the fourth confirmed Kansas sighting in the past three years.

The first modern-day “sighting” of a Kansas mountain lion was confirmed in 2007 when KDWP received information that a Barber County man had killed a mountain lion near Medicine Lodge and sent the carcass to a taxidermist in Texas. KDWP law enforcement officers questioned the man, who admitted that the story was true, and later confiscated the carcass. Although state law provides that mountain lions may be killed for damage to property or for being in or near buildings, they may not be possessed with intent to use as this one was.

The second confirmed sighting came in the fall of 2008 when another northwest Kansas deer hunter took a picture of a mountain lion from his tree stand. After examining the photographs, investigating the sight, and interviewing the hunter, KDWP biologists confirmed those photos were legitimate.

The third incident occurred in 2009 when a Colorado Division of Wildlife biologist contacted KDWP staff to tell them about a cat wearing a GPS transmitter collar that was heading into Kansas. This was a cat that was taken from the wild to a wildlife rehabilitation facility at six months of age. It was released five months later near Estes Park, Colo., and it began traveling immediately, as wild animals held in captivity often do. The GPS satellite downloadable collar was set to record a location every three hours. Receiving the cat’s GPS locations after the fact, Kansas biologists were able to examine the cat’s movements, as well as define areas it stayed for any length of time.

This 90-pound cat stayed in Kansas for 24 days, seeking cover wherever prey could be found, and finally crossed out of Kansas on March 29, 2009. At that point, the animal had traveled more than 1,000 miles. A detailed account of this cat’s adventures in Kansas will be featured in the Nov./Dec. 2010 issue of Kansas Wildlife and Parks magazine. (To subscribe to the magazine, go online to the KDWP website, Click “Other Services/Publications/Magazine” to subscribe.)

The Courtland sighting is consistent with a trend in many Midwest states. Reports of transient cats have increased over the last 20 years, probably due to expanding populations in South Dakota and other western states. To date, there has been no evidence of resident mountain lions in Kansas. KDWP field staff continue to investigate reports when there is credible evidence of a sighting.