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Fulton County woman sees mountain lion in yard

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An adult mountain lion
A woman who lives in southern Fulton County recently informed her neighbors that she saw a mountain lion in her backyard.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, told The News she was awakened by a loud screeching in the middle of the night in early June and, when she looked out her bedroom window, she saw a young mountain lion near her house.

"It was beige, about two foot long with a two foot long tail and a dark mask around the eyes," said the woman.

After researching mountain lions, the woman is sure the animal she saw was a mountain lion, about two years old.

"I called people who live around me (in the Morriston area) so they could be aware and try to protect their livestock and pets," the woman explained.

The woman and her husband, who have about 45 wooded acres behind their house, lost a dog, a German Shorthaired Pointer, about two months ago. She suspects it may have been killed in a fight with the mountain lion.

"My other dog ran up to the house one day and was hysterical, and I never saw my "special dog" again," said the woman, who added her property used to be filled with deer but she has rarely seen deer over the past three months.

The woman reported the sighting to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and was contacted by a state biologist.

She was told the commission has not been able to confirm an instance of wild mountain lions living and reproducing in the state and, therefore, they are not protected as an endangered species. The state would like to be notified if she is able to get photographs, or other evidence of the suspected mountain lion.

"It is not unusual to get calls of suspected mountain lion sightings," said Keith Stevens, Arkansas Game and Fish Media Relations Coordinator.

"I remember last year we received a call from a woman who reported seeing a dead mountain lion at the side of a road," said Stevens. "When we sent a biologist to investigate, he found a dead dog."

Stevens added that there is no proof that a wild mountain lion is living in the state. Mountain lions that have been found in the past have been identified as pets that were apparently turned loose by owners.

"If we can find a mountain lion, we can examine it and conduct tests. If we find one with claws removed, that is a sign the mountain lion was a pet and imported into the state (by a human)," said Stevens. "People who have baby mountain lions as pets often get rid of them as they get older."

According to Stevens, mountain lions generally live on deer, although livestock can be a target, if deer are not available.

Since mountain lions are nocturnal and prefer to live in remote areas, they rarely encounter or attack humans. But, according to Stevens, if someone comes upon a mountain lion and feels threatened, they have the right to protect themselves and shoot the animal, if necessary.

While mountain lions are known to have lived in Arkansas and Missouri in pre-pioneer days, the last known Missouri mountain lion was killed in the Bootheel in 1927.

In Missouri, however, there have been six verified mountain lion sightings since last November.

This spring, an Oregon County man reported seeing a full-grown mountain lion run across a road, near the community of Rover.

The mountain lion briefly got a hind leg caught as it attempted to jump a fence, and a cotton ball sized tuft of hair it left behind was collected by a Conservation Agent. DNA testing confirmed the animal was a mountain lion.

In Missouri, mountain lion carcasses, which have been recovered, have usually been identified as young males, who naturally go in search of new territories as they mature.

The mountain lion populations closest to our area are in South Dakota and northwest Nebraska.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, mountain lions are expected to show up in increasing numbers, as western states continue to grow and expand, destroying their habitat.

"The wildlife people can deny it if they want," said the Fulton County woman, who belives she saw a young mountain lion close up. "But I know they exist and they are here in this area."

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Just because they haven't seen one, doesn't mean they aren't here. We've seen a mountain lion in our wash several times over the last few years. You cannot mistaken a mountain lion for a dog, I'm sorry. As long as they have a food source, they aren't going to come out into the human population. The one we have in the wash is a mature animal, not sure if it's male or female. Doesn't seem to bother anything.

-- Posted by goatgirl on Sun, Jul 10, 2011, at 3:39 PM

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