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 that, the last mountain lion documented in Kansas was killed in 1904 in Ellis County. Confirmations are still pretty rare, but distant confirmations within a 2-day period indicate there were 3 separate lions in the state in Dec, 2020. Another notable case occurred in May of 2021, when presumably a single lion was documented twice by ring doorbells eight days apart as it made its way through the city of Wichita. In total, over 40 confirmations have been made in Kansas since 2007.
Biologists believe most of these lions have been young males coming from established populations in nearby states. It is not uncommon for young males to travel great distances looking to establish a home range in the proximity of other lions. 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 resident lions or 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.
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.
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 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, black bears occasionally occur in the southeast and southwest corners of the state, but there is no evidence of an established wild population living in Kansas. Most confirmations occur from May through July when young bears disperse from their natal home range, but so far none of these bears have stayed in Kansas.
Bears can be a challenge to live with, and special measures must be taken by those who live near them to keep them from becoming a problem. KDWP has partnered with BearWise®, a program that provides information and smart solutions that help homeowners, businesses and communities coexist with black bears. (https://bearwise.org/)
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.
Gray wolves, or timber wolves, formerly existed in Kansas in great abundance, preying on and scavenging from the great herds of bison, elk and other big game animals. They were extirpated from the state by the early 1900s, and remained absent from Kansas until 2012 when an 80-lb. male was killed in northwest Kansas. A second wolf was killed in 2017 by a rancher from amongst a herd of cattle. Both were allegedly mistaken for coyotes.
Because wolf-dog hybrids can be possessed by anyone and can be visually indistinguishable from pure wolves, a wolf can only be verified by genetic testing. Tissues collected from both wolves mentioned above by personnel from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) showed that these animals were both pure gray wolves from the western Great Lakes population. Dispersing wolves from this population have also been confirmed in other Midwest states including Missouri and Nebraska, and a small number of resident wolves currently exist in western Colorado
Wolves in Kansas are classified as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) 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 such as livestock 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.
If you think you have seen a mountain lion, bear, or wolf and have a photograph, video, tracks or other evidence that you believe will substantiate your sighting, contact the KDWPT Furbearer Biologist in the Emporia Research and Survey Office at (620) 342-0658 or report the sighting at the Contact Us link at the bottom of this page. Be sure to leave your contact information for someone to follow up with you. You can also contact a KDWPT game warden or call Operation Game Thief at 1-877-426-3843.