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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Wildlife official: Mountain lions pass through Oklahoma

  • A Shawnee couple has had two recent sightings of what they believe to be a mountain lion, and wildlife officials say mountain lions do pass through the state from time to time, although it’s rare for anyone to see them.
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  • A Shawnee couple has had two recent sightings of what they believe to be a mountain lion, and wildlife officials say mountain lions do pass through the state from time to time, although it’s rare for anyone to see them.
    Ken and Glenda Kerbo have spotted a large cat the size of a Labrador Retriever near their home, which backs up to a large parcel of dense, wooded land, not far from Grove School.
    What began as a quiet May evening in their backyard turned into more of an adventure. First, they heard a lot of birds squawking in the trees behind their home, followed by what Ken described as a “high-pitch” crying.
    A few minutes later, a large cat emerged and they went inside to get their binoculars to better see the cat, which was less than 50 yards away.
    Michael Bergin, senior information and education specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, hadn’t heard of any reported sighting near the school, but said there have been a handful documented sightings of wild mountain lions in the state, including one struck and killed by a vehicle in 2011.
    “Mountain lions do pass through Oklahoma from time to time. Biologists believe these are generally transient animals that are on the move across a very large home-territory, often spanning hundreds of miles and multiple states,” he said. “Usually they are reclusive and stay close to dense cover and unpopulated areas, making it unlikely that most people in Oklahoma will ever see a wild one.”
    While mountain lions have a distinctive appearance, Bergin said people often mistake other animals for mountain lions, such as large yellow dogs as well as wildlife such as bobcats, deer or coyotes.
    “Adult mountain lions are generally large — often over 100 pounds — with tan coats and long tails that are about half the length of their body. Their tail and ears are black-tipped,” he said. “Wild mountain lions will generally avoid humans.”
    During the sighting in Shawnee, the couple walked and followed the cat from a distance away, but they said it had a noticeably long tail that was 18 to 20 inches long.
    “She looked the size of a Labrador — she was huge,” Ken said. Of course neither of them had a phone, or camera with them.
    But Glenda did capture photos of a smaller cat in their yard in June of last year, and the couple thinks maybe this could be the same cat that is a bit older and bigger, but there’s no way to really know.
    As far as wildlife officials, it’s hard to say for certain without some type of evidence whether it is a mountain lion.
    Page 2 of 2 - Mike France, the game warden for Pottawatomie County, said while there are mountain lions here, it’s not very common as this terrain really isn’t their preferred territory.
    “They are secretive — they are going to avoid us more…as soon as they hear or smell you,” he said.
    In his 18 years as a game warden who has logged a lot of miles in the state, France said he has never seen one.
    “The likelihood is very unlikely,” he added.
    There are many bobcats around this area, France said, including many in the city limits of Shawnee. Those, he said, won’t go anywhere near people and usually grow to about 25 to 30 pounds, although some could grow larger if they’ve had access to domestic dog or cat food left out in neighborhoods.
    And while the couple wasn’t scared of the mountain lion, they were a bit alarmed for any pets in their area, which has many homes.
    Should the rare instance occur, Bergin said mountain lions can be taken year-round when committing or about to commit depredation on any domesticated animal or when deemed an immediate safety hazard.”
    If someone kills a mountain lion, the animal must be reported and checked with a game warden or other authorized employee, Bergin said.
    France still believes most people will never see one.
    For more information, call the Wildlife Department at 521-3851 or go to: http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/hunting/mlion.htm
     
     

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