Wildlife Sightings

Mountain Lions

Although people often report seeing them, mountain lions are only occasionally confirmed in Kansas. The first confirmed mountain lion in Kansas in modern times was shot and killed in 2007 in Barber County in south-central Kansas. Prior to 2007, the last mountain lion documented in Kansas was killed in 1904 in Ellis County. The 19th and latest confirmation occurred in November 2016 in Wabaunsee County when a mountain lion was treed and by a coon hound and photographed by the hunters.  

Biologists believe most verified sightings are of transient young males coming from established populations in nearby states. It is not uncommon for young males to travel great distances looking for home ranges. Mountain lions occur in Colorado within 75 miles of the border of southwest Kansas and have been documented with increasing frequency in the Oklahoma panhandle. They have also been dispersing from the Black Hills of South Dakota into several Midwestern states. So far, the animals appear to be passing through Kansas, rather than staying and establishing home ranges. KDWPT has no evidence of a breeding population in the state.

Domestic cats and bobcats are frequently mistaken for mountain lions. Coyotes and dogs are also sometimes mistaken for mountain lions. KDWPT investigates sightings when evidence exists such as tracks, a cached kill, droppings, fur, a photograph or video. Most verified mountain lions have been documented with photographs taken by remote, motion-triggered cameras commonly used by hunters to monitor game activity along trails and around feeders. KDWPT staff may visit the location where photos were taken to examine and measure certain features in the images to better judge the size of the animal in the photo. KDWPT also tries to authenticate photos because images taken from the Internet are sometimes submitted as “proof” of a specific mountain lion sighting.

Kansas does not have a hunting season for mountain lions, and they may not be killed without reason. Landowners are permitted to destroy wildlife, including mountain lions, found in or near buildings on their premises or when destroying property. However, reasonable efforts must be made to alleviate the problem before resorting to killing the animal. Landowners may not possess such animals with intent to use unless authorized.

If you think you have seen a mountain lion and have a photograph, video, tracks or other evidence that you believe will substantiate your sighting, contact the KDWPT Furbearer Biologist, Emporia Research and Survey Office at (620) 342-0658 or use the Contact Us link at the bottom of this page to report a sighting. Be sure to leave your contact information for someone to follow up with you.

 

Bears

American black bears once were common in Kansas, particularly in the eastern parts of the state, but they were extirpated from Kansas by the late 1800s. Black bears are found in nearby states. They occur in parts of Missouri and Oklahoma near southeast Kansas, and they live in New Mexico and Colorado not far from southwest Kansas. Grizzly bears once lived in Kansas but they were extirpated by the early 1800s, and there have been no verified sightings of these animals in modern times.

Today, a transient black bear will sporadically appear in the southeast or southwest corner of the state, but there is no evidence of an established wild population living in Kansas. The few confirmed black bear sightings are typically of young males wandering into Kansas from another state. For a few years in the early 2000s, an American black bear was documented in Morton County in southwestern Kansas each spring. It was reportedly fond of feasting on spring wheat and may have come from Colorado or New Mexico. In June 2015, a juvenile bear was seen near Weir and in Galena in Cherokee County. It may have wandered into Kansas from Missouri, Arkansas or northeast Oklahoma.          

Kansas does not have a hunting season for bears, and they may not be killed without reason.Landowners are permitted to destroy wildlife, including bears, found in or near buildings on their premises or when destroying property. However, reasonable efforts must be made to alleviate the problem before to killing the animal. Landowners may not possess bears with intent to use unless authorized.

If you think you have seen a bear and have a photograph, video, tracks or other evidence that you believe will substantiate your sighting, contact the KDWPT Furbearer Biologist, Emporia Research and Survey Office at (620) 342-0658 or use the Contact Us link at the bottom of this page to report a sighting. Be sure to leave your contact information for someone to follow up with you. Or, contact a KDWPT game warden or call Operation Game Thief at 1-877-426-3843.

 

Wolves

Gray wolves, or timber wolves, formerly lived in Kansas. The species was extirpated from the state by the early 1900s.       

In December 2012, an 80-lb. male was killed in northwest Kansas by hunters who mistook it for a coyote. When they approached, they realized it was too large to be a coyote. Coyotes usually weigh less than 40 lbs. while wolves can weigh up to 145 lbs. They called a KDWPT game warden, who contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The USFWS confirmed through tissue testing that the animal was a gray wolf from the western Great Lakes population.

This was the first documented wolf in Kansas since the early 1900s. Wolves have been known to wander into Missouri from other states, particularly Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan and have been documented sporadically in Nebraska. While uncommon, wolf-dog hybrids can be possessed by anyone and are indistinguishable from full-blooded wolves in appearance.  

Wolves are protected in Kansas under federal law and may not be killed except when there is an actual threat to human safety.Kansas provisions allowing the killing of wildlife to protect personal property are not an exemption to that law. If you believe a wolf is threatening, attacking or killing pets or livestock, protect all evidence and contact a KDWPT game warden or call Operation Game Thief at 1-877-426-3843.