Thursday, December 31, 2009

Iowa: Recent shooting raises awareness of cougars

Published: December 30, 2009 09:42 am

Recent Shooting raises awareness of cougars
Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — One Marion County wildlife expert believes a major opportunity was missed when a farmer shot a mountain lion near Marengo last week. The animal could have been tagged by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and aided officials in learning more about the cougar population in the state.

Ron DeArmond with the Pella Wildlife Company has focused on education about wildlife for years. Pella Wildlife Company offers educational programs for students of all ages, from pre-kindergarten through college and for the community as well. One of the organization’s goals for 2010 is to educate more people about the predator-prey relationship, including Iowa mountain lions.

There have been no confirmed reports of the animals in Marion County. DNR Office Ken Kenyon says he does not believe there has been a cougar attack in the state of Iowa at any time.

Over the past 14 years, there have been 16 confirmed and highly probable cougar sightings within Iowa’s borders. This includes tracks being discovered in Lucas County in February 2004 and confirmed tracks in Lucas County in February 2004.

Kenyon says the DNR does not have any way to track the animals. He said there may be three wandering around the state at any given time. They are usually young males who have had their territories displaced.

“We lost so much information just because this guy wanted a trophy,” DeArmond said.

DeArmond has been licensed to work with wildlife for over 20 years. He says if the Marengo farmer had called the DNR, they could have tranquilized the animal, tagged it and tracked it. This could have helped wildlife officials learn more about their habits and how many may be in the state. Marion County has two officials to contact, Kenyon and John Mertz.

Though there have been no confirmed sightings in Marion County, DeArmond says people have reported finding deer carcasses covered in grass and debris. This is something cougars do.

DeArmond says cougars are not to be feared. They have to be taught to attack livestock and will not do so instinctively. Deer are more of a threat to farmers by eating crops than cougars, DeArmond said.

DeArmond, like other wildlife officials, is seeking legislative protection of cougars. DNR representative Ron Andrews wrote a report on cougars. In his report, he says the DNR requested that the legislature designate cougars and black bears as furbearers, thus allowing the DNR to manage them properly. They also asked for a law against shooting these animals indiscriminately, unless there is an immediate threat to human life. Andrews writes, “The DNR was assked by the Governor’s office not to pursue mountain lion/cougar and black bear furbearer status in the Iowa Code in 2006, 2007 and 2008.” DeArmond encourages people to contact their legislators about protecting these species.

“We don’t have to be killing these things indiscriminately,” DeArmond said.

The Pella Wildlife Company is a nonprofit organization that is supported by donations. For more information, visit pellawildlifecompany.org.

http://www.journalexpress.net/features/local_story_364104250.html

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