By O.Kay Henderson
Radio Iowa News
Monday, March 5, 2007, 8:37 PM
The Iowa Senate had a cat fight tonight about big cats -- about mountain lions and cougars. Western Iowa Republicans railed against a bill that would forbid the shooting of a mountain lion in Iowa unless a person's life or property is endangered.
Senator Steve Kettering, a Republican from Lake View, said people are fearful of mountain lions, for good reason. "These are not cuddly kitty cats," Kettering said. "These are predators that stalk and kill."
Senator Nancy Boettger, a Republican from Harlan, heard the "gutteral" roar of a big cat when she was camping in her backyard with grandkids. "A few weeks later, only a few weeks later, a mountain lion was hit by a car a couple of blocks away from an elementary school (in Harlan) and killed, and that mountain lion is mounted and on display at our county conservation place," Boettger said. "I mean, the thing was huge."
During the debate, Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, was the only senator to argue in favor of new restrictions on the indiscriminate killing of mountain lions and cougars. Since 1995, there have only been 21 confirmed sightings of mountain lions or cougars in Iowa according to Hogg. "The vast majority of sightings...according to the Department of Natural Resources, are cases of mistaken identity," Hogg said.
Boettger said she had seen a mountain lion herself and she cited other evidence that the big cats are out there, like "the claw marks on the back of a horse."
Hogg offered the opposing view. "These animals are predators, but they are very unlikely to attack people or even livestock," Hogg said. "They generally feed on deer."
Senator James Seymour, a Republican from Woodbine, said he saw a cougar in his backyard last summer. "I don't know that I would have had time to call the DNR and ask them if I could shoot that cougar with my (grand children) playing in my backyard," Seymour said.
A 29-to-20 senate vote on an amendment derailed the bill and the new restrictions on shooting mountain lions and cougars were tabled.