Timeline of mountain-lion sightings in Kansas:
• On Dec. 7, 2010, images of a mountain lion were captured on a trail camera in Nemaha County. The animal was near a deer-bait pile.
• In October 2010, another trail camera caught a mountain lion in Republic County visiting a mineral site that also had a bait pile for deer.
• In March 2010, a Colorado mountain lion that had a tracking device entered Kansas. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks was able to follow the animal’s progress as it moved through western Kansas. The mountain lion is now in New Mexico.
• In October 2009, a mountain lion was photographed several times in Trego County near a corn pile.
• In November 2007, a mountain lion was killed in Barber County. DNA samples from the animal were sent to a federal research lab in Montana to see if the animal was wild or one that had lived in captivity and escaped. Results indicated that it was most likely a wild animal; however, researchers couldn’t link it to a specific population of animals.
In the past year, several mountain lions have been wandering through Kansas.
The most recent spotting in the state occurred last month in Nemaha County when a landowner caught on a trail camera a mountain lion that was near a deer-bait pile.
It was the third mountain-lion sighting the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks verified last year and the fifth since the agency first confirmed the animal’s presence in the state in 2007.
The increasing number of mountain-lion sightings were among the items discussed at a KDWP commission meeting Thursday at the Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence.
Matt Peek, a wildlife research biologist with KDWP, said the agency has been verifying mountain-lion sightings through photographs, kill sites and trails. While many reported sightings of the animals turn out to be nothing, some people have spotted the real thing.
“They don’t exist in any kind of numbers without leaving some kind of evidence,” Peek said.
Along with the five Kansas sightings, Peek said, mountain lions have been spotted nearby in Missouri.
In late November, a landowner photographed a mountain lion in a tree in southern Platte County near the Missouri River. And, just last week, a landowner shot and killed a male mountain lion in Ray County, Mo., which is northeast of Kansas City and about 50 miles from the Kansas border. The landowner killed the lion because it was attacking livestock and he was fearful for his grandchildren who played in the fields, Peek said.
Many of the sightings have been near locations that attract deer and following deer trails, Peek said.
As of yet, there haven’t been any signs that the mountain lions are permanently living and reproducing in Kansas. The data gathered points to young, male mountain lions, which means the animals are most likely passing through.
Adult male mountain lions can travel hundreds of miles after they leave their natal homes in search of female mates, Peek said.
The rise in mountain-lion sightings should not alarm the public, Peek said. Conflicts between the animal and humans are rare, even in heavily urban areas.
At Thursday’s meeting, Ron Klataske, executive director of Audubon Kansas, said a mountain lion’s presence in northern Nebraska helped keep the raccoon population in check, which created better habitat for birds.
“The presence of mountain lions should be a note of celebration. It brings a sense of wild to the state,” Klataske said.