Runner reports seeing mountain lion along river levee

A Lawrence woman got more than a little exercise when she went out to run Thursday morning and found she was being stalked by what she is convinced was a mountain lion along the Kansas River levee.

“Yeah, I was scared,” said Liz Dobbins, who said she was followed by the big cat for about a mile before making her escape, dashing for a mile to her car. “I was afraid I might be breakfast.”

Dobbins said she wanted to make sure others who took to the levee for a run or a bike ride were aware of what she encountered.

“I know there’s a lot of young kids out there on bicycles, and a lot of people running,” she said. “My major concern was to let people know that there was something sighted out there so they would be more aware of going in groups – or not at all.”

She is the latest among several residents to report mountain lions in the area during the last three years. There have been sightings on Kansas University’s west campus, at the Alvamar Golf Club and west of Clinton Lake.

However, a state wildlife official said Thursday there was no official evidence the lions had been re-established in Kansas after being wiped out about a century ago.

Roger Wolfe, fisheries and wildlife region supervisor for the Lawrence and Topeka area, said his office received frequent reports of sightings.

But he said there hadn’t been any conclusive evidence, such as roadkill or paw prints.

Some scat and a photo taken by an automated wildlife camera of a mountain lion on KU’s west campus were not conclusive, Wolfe said.

Wolfe said he would be interested in talking with Dobbins and visiting the site to investigate.

Dobbins, who runs about twice a week along the levee, said she had gone out about 5:20 a.m. Thursday and headed east of the Kansas River bridge.

She had passed the 2.5-mile marker when she saw what she first thought was a dog. It came out of the tree line on her right, into the short grass, about 200 yards away.

“My first thought was ‘leash law?’ because I’m jogging,” she said. “And then I took a closer look at it, and it was not a dog. It was a full-grown, big-sized cat. It was not a bobcat.”

She guessed it was about as large as a German shepherd.

“But it was longer than a dog,” she said. It had a long tail and was light tan in color, she said.

“It crouched down, looking at me. I came to a dead stop,” Dobbins said. She was afraid to turn and run for fear it would chase her.

“So I just walked backward, yelling at him,” she said. But her shouts of “Hey!” didn’t scare it.

“In fact, he stood up and took, like, seven or eight steps and went back down in a crouching position,” she said.

“I was pretty scared,” said Dobbins, who is 5-feet-2 and weighs 110 pounds. She kept backing up and picked up some gravel.

“I didn’t want to be attacked from behind,” she said. “So I walked backward to the mile-and-a-half mark.”

The animal followed, taking seven or eight steps at a time, then stopping to crouch and watch, she said.

Dobbins said she kept backing up, hoping to get to a home along the area that had sheep in a pen where the lion would look at them instead.

“About the time I got to the sheep, he lost interest and he went back into the woods,” she said.

“I took a second look to make sure he wasn’t looking at me,” she said. Then she dashed back to her car in a parking lot by the levee.