By KIM FUNDINGSLAND, Staff Writer
NEW TOWN – The carcass of a mountain lion has been pulled from the ice pack on Lake Sakakawea about one-half mile south of the Four Bears Marina. New Town residents Henry and Ken Matthews reported seeing a paw sticking up through the ice this past Saturday. The lion was freed from its icy resting place about 4 p.m. and turned over to North Dakota Game and Fish Department personnel, who took it to Bismarck for testing.
“All I thought was, ‘My goodness’ when I saw that paw sticking out of the ice,” said Fred Poitra, Three Affiliated Tribes game and fish director. “We’ve had sightings in the Four Bears area since last summer and more this winter in the Shell Creek area, all probably within a 20- to 25-mile radius.”
Poitra said that Tribal Security had reported spotting a lion earlier this winter. He estimated the lion to be about 6 feet in length with a weight of about 70 pounds. There didn’t appear to be any visible wounds on the lion which may have fallen through the ice and thus became trapped and died.
The area where the lion was found is approximately 25 miles from where a cow was found dead in a pasture southeast of Tioga on March 20. John Paulson, of the federal Agriculture Department’s Wildlife Service office in Bismarck, confirmed that the cow showed the typical signs of a mountain lion attack. Although efforts to find the lion responsible for the Tioga attack proved unsuccessful, lion tracks were discovered in the area.
North Dakota’s second mountain lion season ended in early November 2006 when the season quota of five lions was reached. The fifth lion was taken on the edge of New Salem. Other lions harvested included ones killed near Lansford and Washburn, two areas that have been defined as outside of the state’s prime mountain lion habitat in the remote reaches of the Badlands.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is still in the process of evaluating data from the previous two mountain lion seasons in an effort to determine just how and where mountain lions have been dispersing within the state.
Among the ideas known to be under consideration by Game and Fish is the implementing of an expanded mountain lion season in areas outside of the Badlands and increasing the season quota. The topic is sure to be covered at a department advisory board meeting scheduled for Minot’s Grand International Inn Thursday evening at 7 p.m.