Saturday, November 07, 2009

Kansas: It’s about time, documentation of a mountain lion

Steve Gilliland: Exploring Kansas Outdoors!

By Steve Gilliland
Steve Gilliland
Posted Nov 07, 2009 @ 12:44 AM

Well, it’s finally happened and it’s about time, and what a slam dunk it makes for this week’s topic.

Even though it’s already been on the TV news and has been written about in who-knows-how-many newspapers, not continuing the discussion would be like Larry Johnson or Darren Sproles not heading for the end zone because I was in their way; or maybe not shooting at that once-in-a-lifetime buck for fear of losing an arrow; or maybe throwing back that monster flathead because it was someone’s daddy; or maybe … well, you get the picture.

This dashes my dream of being the first one to trap, photograph or legally shoot one. Still, I just feel like I would not be worth my goose jerky as an outdoor writer If I didn’t use this week’s time and space to continue discussing (or celebrating as the case may be) the “first official documentation of a live wild mountain lion in Kansas!”

I can already hear a chorus of “I told you so’s” echoing across the state. In defense of our wildlife and parks people, I know that most of them too have believed for some time that cougars at least move through our state, if not reside here. And they too have wondered for some time along with the rest of us why no irrefutable evidence has come to light, such as a cougar killed on the highway or shot by a rancher.

The wording of the announcement confuses me a little, since a lion was killed last year in Barber County, but I guess the key to the whole thing is the word “live.” That lion was shot by a farmer cutting, wood and no one else confirmed or could verify seeing it alive.

Here’s the scenario as told to Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks personnel: A deer hunter northwest of Wakeeney was hunting from a tree stand over a pile of corn. The mountain lion suddenly appeared near the grain pile and slowly walked past the hunters stand. The hunter grabbed his camera (proving again we should ALL carry one with us at ALL times in the woods) and cranked off several photos as the cat passed within 10 feet of him.

He said at one point the cat looked up at him as it continued moving on out of sight. Matt Peek, KDWP furbearer research biologist, says “KDWP received photographs of the animal and staff were able to verify that the location was in Kansas, and the story seemed legitimate.”

The picture on the KDWP Web site is said to be the best one, but is still not very good. (I’ll bet it’s hard to take a good photo while peeing in your pants!)

I personally know several people who say they have seen cougars in recent years, some not far from here, and I don’t know whether this makes them feel exonerated or not, but suffice it to say it should put an end to the uncertainty and skepticism once and for all.

Maybe now we can all move on to the next bit of drama like Bigfoot or whether the Chiefs will ever win another game (oh, wait; I guess that happened too.) … Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve Gilliland is a syndicated outdoors columnist, and can be contacted by e-mail at


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