Edwin Smith longs for the day he shoots with a camera a stealthy eastern Kansas cougar.
"It will be fairly difficult," said Smith, who lives near Baldwin and is interested in wildlife art and big cats.
Smith doesn't underestimate the challenge, said Lou Constantino of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
"To this date, we have no picture or physical evidence that verifies cougars live here," Constantino said.
"We have sightings all the time, just like UFOs. My personal opinion is we have cougars, but that doesn't stand up in court."
Cougars, also called pumas and mountain lions, are yellowish-brown and can weigh from 60 to 200 pounds. They are solitary hunters and not easy to find.
SMITH HAS talked with about 15 people who think they have seen a cougar in Douglas County in the past few years.
"A typical sighting is of a cougar running across a road," he said. "Some could be large dogs, but not all."
On one occasion, Smith was shown a photograph of a horse scratched on both hind legs. There were distinct claw marks, he said.
Constantino said a study is being conducted at Kansas State University to determine whether cougars inhabit the state.
"We need pictures or paw prints," he said. "Well, maybe we'll know for certain in a couple of years."
In the meantime, speculation will have to do. It's logical to believe Kansas has cougars, Constantino said.
He said there is an ample supply of deer in Kansas, and deer make up from 50 percent to 75 percent of a cougar's diet.
THE CATS are capable of thriving in the mountains, plains, deserts and forests.
Smith said he would appreciate help from area residents in locating a cougar. His phone number is 594-3960.
He's particularly interested in cougar sightings in southern Douglas County within the past three years.