Saturday, February 24, 2007, 8:33 AM
By Darwin Danielson
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Hamilton County Conservation Board are planning a meeting in March to discuss mountain lion sightings.
DNR specialist Ron Andrews says the meeting is informational to knock down rumors, not because of an increase in the animals. Andrews says there have only been three dead mountain lions found in Iowa since 2001 and it has been over two years since they've had an authenticated report of a mountain lion. Andrews says the DNR believes the "lion's share" of sightings are mistaken identities.
Andrews says conservation officers across the country have found several animals that seem to be mistaken for a mountain lion -- yellow lab dogs, yellow shepherd dogs and bobcats. He says the sightings are often in low light conditions and once the rumor gets out that a mountain lion might be in the area "all of a sudden everything they see becomes a mountain lion."
Andrews says pictures circulating over the Internet have also helped fuel the stories about mountain lion sightings. Andrews says there was a picture circulating that was supposed to be a mountain lion in Fort Dodge. "It's really unfortunate that the Internet is being used by some folks to create undue paranoia," Andrews says. The photo that was supposed to have been from Fort Dodge was from another state, according to Andrews.
He says your chances of seeing a mountain lion in Iowa aren't very good, as they'd rather not see you. According to Andrews, the mountain lions sense the presence of humans much quicker than humans sense them and the mountain lion wants to leave as soon as it gets the sense of a human.
There have been mountain lion attacks on humans in western states, but Andrews contends the concern in Iowa is overblown.
The mountain lion meeting is March 7th at the Briggs Woods County Park two miles south of Webster City.