All looked legit when I got the first photo of a mountain lion resting in a corn field. It seemed quite believable that a young male cat might take refuge from the heat in an irrigated field of corn. It was said to be near Dodge City, where there’s a river that a wandering lion might follow in from the west, and plenty of irrigated corn.
But then came more texts and e-mails with the same photo claiming it was taken in other locations in Kansas, and places in Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and North Carolina.
Now we know it’s just another online mountain lion hoax, with a different twist than the dozen that have come through Kansas in recent years.
The original photo of the cat in the corn appears to have originated in Brazil several months ago, several state wildlife departments have said after doing research. Matt Peek, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism furbearer biologist, even forwarded an article, written in Portuguese, that he found with the photo.
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Mark Dowling, of the Cougar Network, thinks the photo was taken in Brazil, too. Cougar Network is an organization that helps track the eastward expansion of mountain lions across America, from places such as the Black Hills of South Dakota or the Rocky Mountains.
There are already several good photos of mountain lions in Kansas. Peek, who monitors the species for Wildlife and Parks, said we’ve had 15 documented cases of wild mountain lions being in Kansas since 2007.
The first was shot and killed by a landowner near Medicine Lodge. Prior to that, it had been more than 100 years since a mountain lion had been documented in Kansas.
The most recent confirmation was from a trail camera in September, one of several clear photos of mountain lions in Kansas last summer. But Peek said that doesn’t mean we had several mountain lions in the state at the same time, though.
“Some of those were probably the same lion,” Peek said. “We have documentations, a couple of weeks apart, of what appears to be a mountain lion making a beeline across Kansas. Nebraska had some just before us and Oklahoma had some after us. It’s possible we just had a very visible mountain lion passing through. Such has happened before, too.
Peek has said most of the mountain lions in Kansas and other Midwestern states are probably transient young males forced from good habitat in the mountains or Black Hills. They keep moving, looking for another good place to live. Some appear to have wandered as far as the east coast. Prior to Kansas’ first documentation in 2007, several mountain lions had been documented in Nebraska, mostly south of the Black Hills.
With females extremely rare on these prairies, the chances of a reproducing mountain lion population in Kansas is slight.
The chances of there being more online hoaxes, however, will always remain pretty high.
More notable Kansas mountain lion hoaxes
▪ During at least two different years, the image of a lion dragging a dead deer by the neck, in front of a feeder and cactus, has surfaced and been attributed to many places in Kansas. It’s been linked to hoaxes in at least 12 other states, from Pennsylvania to California. The photo is believed to have come from Texas.
▪ A photo attributed to northeast Kansas showed an adult mountain lion with several half-grown young in the snow, by big ponderosa pines. Vehicles in the background all had Colorado license plates.
▪ One of the first Kansas mountain lion hoaxes allegedly showed a man holding a huge, dead mountain lion inside a garage. The story went that he’d seen it chasing cattle near Leon and shot it. Then it was attributed to several other places in Kansas and other states. Boone & Crockett eventually identified the hunter and said he’d shot it while calling coyotes in western Washington.
▪ About three years ago, a photo was widely circulated of a mountain lion allegedly hit by a car near Ottawa, and eventually Wichita and on I-70. Most photos carried the text that it attacked Wildlife and Parks staff when it arrived to euthanize the injured animal. The same photo and similar stories appeared in several other states. The cat was road-killed in Arizona, and the photo taken at a nearby taxidermy studio.
▪ A video circulated five or more years ago of a black cat near a business in southeast Kansas. It was originally reported as a black panther. Judging by the size, biologists figured out it was just a black house cat.
Kansas mountain lion trivia
▪ No state, including Kansas, has stocked mountain lions to help control a growing deer population.
▪ The story of someone shooting a mountain lion, burying it and having a game warden soon come to remove a tracking chip is pure rural legend.
▪ Kansas did have a mountain lion wander in from Colorado that was carrying a GPS tracking collar. It traveled the state from north to south, near the Colorado border, in about 21 days. It had originally been collared and released high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains before heading east.
▪ Research biologists in Colorado and South Dakota said it’s easy to document mountain lions if there are many around. About 10 percent die annually. Many are hit on highways or caught in traps set for coyotes or bobcats.
▪ The same biologist said attacks on large livestock, such as cattle or horses by mountain lions have been pretty rare. Sheep, goats, dogs and domestic cats don’t seem to be as fortunate.
▪ Game wardens who have moved from Kansas to known mountain lion areas in the Rocky Mountains have said they got more reports of the big cats when they were stationed out here on the prairie.
▪ Generally, reports of citizens seeing mountain lions in Kansas have decreased since the animals have been verified within the state.
▪ Wildlife and Parks never took the position that there were no mountain lions in Kansas prior to 2007. They said they had no solid proof the animals existed within our borders.