News Columns & Blogs

No denying it about mountain lions

Enough. I’m tired of hearing it – over, and over, and over.

In today’s Letters to the Editors section of The Eagle, Frank Chenoweth, of Clearwater, said “the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks denied there are cougars in Kansas.”

That’s news to me. Never in the 28 years I’ve worked closely with KDWP biologists, game wardens and upper-level managers have I heard anyone deny mountain lions in Kansas.

Not once.

(For the record, I’ve never denied it either. Within the past ten years or so I considered it almost a certainty we’ve had the occassional mountain lion in Kansas. I deny, though, the existence of “black panthers” in Kansas because black mountain lions have never, ever, been documented in the U.S. or Canada.)

Many times I heard KDWP  people  say “we have no proof.”  To a man and woman they said it was sure possible and, more lately, very probable to have the occasional big cat in Kansas.

And until a couple of years ago there was no solid proof. Thousands of times biologists followed leads that lead to no solid proof. “Sure-thing ” lion sightings and tracks on the snow lead to proof of coyotes, dogs or bobcats.

One particular houndsman, with dogs that annually ran lions in the mountains, drove from border to border hoping to be the first to tree a big wild cat in Kansas. Nada. In many years of following leads nobody even showed him a for-sure track.

Through it I never heard any of those following leads deny there could be mountain lions in Kansas.

Never. Still the accusations and assumptions keep coming. And I’m not sure why.

We now have proof in the carcass of a cat shot by a rancher and the fuzzy photo taken by a deer hunter. That confirmations are up in surrounding states also helps solidify the probability of a few mountain lions in Kansas.

More and more young male lions have been documented across the midwest. Most coming from an expanding Black Hills population or possibly from Colorado.

That none have been road-killed or regularly show up on Kansas trail camera pics prove they’re still a great rarity but nobody can deny they’ve probably here.

As far as I know, our state game agency never did.