Cougars in Topeka, Pumas in Pittsburgh




November 17, 2006



By Julie Kay Smithson



Topeka, Kansas - Call them cougars, catamounts, mountain lions, panthers, or pumas, folks in these parts have been seeing things. Statewide, locals and travelers are meeting these large, predatory carnivores with increasing regularity. Some 'experts' say the things people are seeing are anything but what they're actually seeing.



Tantamount to catamount?



Lawrence, Kansas, too, is having its share of mountain lion sightings. Googling again: "mountain lion" "Lawrence" "Kansas" "sighting" gets 684 results. One example of many is a Lawrence Journal-World article from November 7, 2006: More than forty comments posted from local residents are located immediately below the article's text.


Does seeing a cougar mean one actually saw a cougar? According to 'experts,' it doesn't. The sighting must be 'confirmed,' and the details of what constitute a 'confirmed' sighting are as changeable as the animal's name. Those reporting the sightings are often told they "must have" been confused, and that what they saw was "probably" one of the following: a large house cat; a bobcat; a large dog; a coyote; a fox, and so on. There are noticeable differences in such animals, and all those seeing the tail are certain they saw a mountain lion. A partially eaten cow carcass in a tree, indicating that something large must have dragged it there, doesn't sound like the work of a German Shepherd.



Puma population prolificating, pontificating 



"Proof" in the form of "confirmed" sightings, is made a bar so high few can reach. Sightings, confirmed and otherwise, continue to mount as "experts" seek to reassure the public that the cats are merely escaped "exotic pets." A few mountain lions killed by cars have been declawed, but the majority is wild. A quick Google search for this search string: "mountain lion" "Topeka" "sighting" yields 403 results; expand that search to: "mountain lion" "Kansas" "sighting" and the results jump to 15,200.


In Pennsylvania, in 2006, '"This year, more than at any time I can recall, there has been an ungodly amount of mountain lion sightings," wildlife management bureau director Cal DuBrock told game commissioners at the agency's meeting...' in October. For all that, credible reported sightings get " respect" from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The same Cal DuBrock: "We're not looking for more accounts. We are looking for more credible accounts." Source: "Outdoors: Game Commission to track mountain lion sighting amid flood of reports," November 6, 2006, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.



Cougars captive breeding captives



"Genetic restoration is on the cutting edge of endangered species restoration," Noreen K. Clough declares. Does her federal employment as U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Southeast Regional Director qualify her as an expert on "genetic restoration" or its effects? For those that doubt the credibility of such general Internet results, an Advanced Google Search, limiting the results to those from ".gov" (government websites) and searching for: "Kansas" "sighting" "mountain lion" still garners 189 results. Of course, "confirmed" sightings, which apparently differ from "reported" sightings, draw less 'net attention, but still receive 120 .gov results.


Captive breeding programs for 're'introduction have come into vogue, though much of this activity continues 'under the radar.' "Florida" panthers, which are actually cougars from Texas (where they are considered a nuisance specie) that have been trapped, loaded and trucked to the Sunshine State. Also called "genetic restoration," captive breeding pays little heed to natural ebb and flow of species or natural extinction of species that do not successfully adapt to changing conditions, not the least of which is climate change. While it is true that people have had an impact on our planet, much that occurs would happen even if there were no humans. Mass extinctions occurred before people existed, though such events are downplayed and marginalized in the face of today's Chicken Little, sky is falling persuasively worded arguments.



Mountain lion migration or mass transportation?



As sightings of mountain lions continue to increase, the locations of these sightings elicit questions. Why are sightings near roads and railroad tracks so common? If mountain lions are so reclusive, why are they being seen inside city limits in many states not considered to have ever been within their "historic range?" Why do people report behavior that is bold and even aggressive, as people and pets are openly stalked?


The admitted transporting of Texas cougars to Florida " help revitalize the panther breeding population" is but the tip of the 're'introduction iceberg.


One website, sympathetic to the cougar, offers many published articles from across America and Canada: 



Mountain menace



1981-1995 saw "genetic restoration" ramp up to full swing. Witness: "Changes represented herein were undertaken solely for the purpose of incorporating and expediting the implementation of genetic restoration needs into the recovery program." "The addition of genetic restoration actions are deemed necessary and appropriate because available biological data indicate that perhaps even if all major task (sic) contained in the present recovery program are successfully implemented, the continued existence of the panther would be doubtful without specific actions to restore genetic health to the panther. To expedite the implementation of efforts to address genetic restoration needs, a complete recovery plan revisions (sic) was not undertaken at this time." "The involved agencies were encouraged to expedite genetic restoration activities as much as possible. ...the need to continue development of artificial inseminstion (sic) and in vitro fertilization technology, which could be important for genetic restoration and management." Source: (Pages 2, 5 and 76 of 76)


In 1999 and 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) admitted the threat by mountain lions on Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed bighorn sheep. Source: and The answer? Captive breeding programs for bighorn sheep, an exercise in speciesism, or favoring one species over another. The majestic sentinel of the Rocky Mountains, the bighorn sheep, has been reduced to being raised with a future as "cat food," and the captive breeding program for the bighorn is described as producing "reintroduction stock" to satisfy the cougar's diet!


Will these tawny felines soon be coming 'round the corner and up your street?


1,000 words.



The inspiration for the above effort:




Teacher latest to report seeing mountain lion



November 7, 2006


By Dave Toplikar  or 785-832-7151


Lawrence Journal-World


P.O. Box 888


Lawrence, Kansas 66044


800-578-8748 or 785-843-1000


Fax: 785-843-4512


To submit a Letter to the Editor: (250-word limit)


A teacher is the latest Lawrence resident to spot a mountain lion in the area.

"I'm reasonably certain I did," said Craig Hershiser, who teaches English at Free State High School. "It kind of took me by surprise."

Hershiser was driving south on South Lawrence Avenue about 7:45 a.m. Sunday when he came to the stop sign at 31st Street.

Looking south of the intersection, he said, he saw an animal walking along in the middle of a field.

"It was moving like a cat, a steady, measured gait," Hershiser said. "It has those kinds of features that made me think it was a mountain lion. It was kind of a buff color, with a long tail."

He couldn't estimate the weight or the length. But it wasn't a bobcat, he said.

"It was bigger than a coyote," he said.

Hershiser watched the cat for 30 to 40 seconds, then it walked into taller brush out of his view.

Roger Wolfe, Kansas Department of Wildlife fisheries and wildlife region supervisor for the Lawrence and Topeka area, said Monday he doesn't doubt Hershiser's sighting.

However, Wolfe said there was still no evidence that mountain lions have a breeding population in Kansas. Those seen could be either a lone cougar that has taken up residence here or a semi-domesticated exotic pet that was released.

"Typically, you don't see these things on a consistent basis," he said.

Last June, Lawrence resident Liz Dobbins reported she was stalked by a mountain lion for about a mile during an early-morning jog along the Kansas River levee trail just east of the city.

Other sightings have been reported in the last few years at the Martin Park area, the Alvamar golf course and on Kansas University's west campus.




Note: doesn't necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy. For more information, see our problems comments and banned accounts page.



Posted by carolannfugate November 7, 2006


Roger Wolfe, Kansas Department of Wildlife fisheries and wildlife region supervisor for the Lawrence and Topeka area, said Monday he doesn't doubt Hershiser's sighting At least they admit the Lions are out there.


Posted by loudmouthrealist November 7, 2006


There really is no question that mountain lions could be in Lawrence. I do not believe any official has ever argued this. There was a confirmed killing of a mountain lion maybe 2 years ago in Kansas City, MO. A car hit it. A mountain lions territory is "Individual lions range in areas varying in size from 10 to 370 square miles" per the Colorado Division of Wildlife. SEE Therefore, Lawrence is certainly in that range. What Kansas Dept of Wildlife is saying is: "Wolfe said there was still no evidence that mountain lions have a breeding population in Kansas. Those seen could be either a lone cougar that has taken up residence here or a semi-domesticated exotic pet that was released." There are documented cases of idiots here in Lawrence/Douglas County of having had mountain lions as pets in the past.


Posted by carolannfugate November 7, 2006


They denied it in this article about the sighting on the levee


Posted by Reality_Check November 7, 2006


So, did anyone go out there and look for tracks?


Posted by loudmouthrealist November 7, 2006


In regard to carolannfugate, I have no vested interest in defending the Kansas Dept of Wildlife or any other official agency. What I do try to defend is the truth. All they said was "However, a state wildlife official said Thursday there was no official evidence the lions had been re-established in Kansas after being wiped out about a century ago." They said nothing of it not being possible. Also, there is a big difference in seeing one mountain lion and having a re-established population of lions in KS. A re-established population means that there are enough lions around that they can breed and multiply. Not to say anything about the women in the above mentioned story (I have no reason not to believe her), a visual sighting is not proof of the truth. It might be proof for her, but it is not proof in a scientific sense. Proof of mountain lions will only come from a verifiable photo of a lion or from an actual specimen of a dead lion. I personally belive that there are individual mountain lions around this area. Most likely due to the above mentioned idiots who keep these animals as pets. One thing I have a hard time understanding is: With all the camera and motion sensor technology that we have available, why do we not have a verifiable photo? I believe the reason for this is because the KS Dept of Wildlife does not want verifiable proof. Just imagine the hysteria of many in the public if we have documented proof of lions around here. SOMEONE SAVE THE CHILDREN! KILL THE LIONS!


Posted by Lonestar1 November 7, 2006


Wasn't there a remote photo and some poop from west campus?


Posted by carolannfugate November 7, 2006


KU did get a photo on west campus and the droppings were tested. Tests indicated the dropping were from a Mountain Lion, but the photo was not as clear as some would have liked.


Posted by loudmouthrealist November 7, 2006


The photo was the same quality as any Sasquatch photo I have seen. The poop is not considered verifiable evidence unless it can be proven that it was deposited there by the actual lion and not placed there. That saying that the guy that found the scat placed it there, but anyone could have placed that sample. Sorry, just another unverifiable report. I am just being Lucifer's advocate here.


Posted by Shardwurm November 7, 2006


I think you should be more concerned about the Wildcats that are going to be on campus in a couple of weeks.


Posted by oscarfactor November 7, 2006


Undoubtedly it's time to call Marlon Perkins to get the definitive answer.


Posted by jonas on November 7, 2006


Carol: Of course, to be as clear as some would have liked, or even accepted, it would have had to have been professionally done, from exactly 10 feet away, in good light, with Sue Hack standing nearby for proper size verification, and the lion would have to have been holding a sign saying "YES, I AM ACTUALLY A MOUNTAIN LION." The denials of the original series of sightings were so vehement as to be somewhat ludicrous, if you ask me.


Posted by ranger73 November 7, 2006


Maybe KU can get a grant and invest in thousands of dollars capture and confirm the existence of mountain lions, and then study it and see if it can be a viable candidate for city commission...or maybe the existence of it would cause all development west of to cease so as not to destroy it's current habitat or maybe they find out it knows some engineering since it hangs out on west campus so much and has peeked in windows and knows about traffic flows and how to design roads or maybe they find out it was placed there by Wal-Mart opposition leaders to prevent Wal-Mart from building... sorry-got some bad coffee this am-kinda punchy...


Posted by rodentgirl16 November 7, 2006


My husband and I are fairly certain that we saw one last Friday night. We were driving on the road that goes out of town from 11th St. into the country. We are always very vigilant because there are a lot of deer. We saw eyes and thought it was a deer so we slowed down. However, the animal was clearly not a deer. Deer always hold their heads high and are vigilant. This had the gait and body line of a large cat. We were both like, "Uh, was that a mountain lion?" Now, having said that, we can't prove that it was a mountain lion and we certainly weren't going to get out and look for tracks, but there have been several mountain lion sightings in that area. The only bad thing was that it was right next to a farm where people have horses and I know mountain lions have been known to kill horses and livestock. Nonetheless, no one was hurt and I think it was pretty cool! I wish I knew for sure!


Posted by compmd November 7, 2006


"Last June, Lawrence resident Liz Dobbins reported she was stalked by a mountain lion..." The lion just didn't understand that she didn't want him around any more. It was over, and there was nothing he could do about it. Maybe he thought they could give it another chance, that he wasn't the lion he used to be, he just wanted to show her. But he went too far and stalked her. Now if he's caught, he'll get his picture up on the Internet and the state will have to find somewhere for him to live in an area that will accept him. He'll try to live out a normal life, think about what he did and have to come to terms with it. It was just a little mistake, it was all a misunderstanding. Will he ever shake the stigma of being labeled a stalker? Will he ever be free of the shame?


Posted by kmat November 7, 2006


For those who doubt there are mountain lions in KS, just go talk to rural farmers. My family's farm near Williamsburg has always had them. Everyone in my family that lived and worked on the farm saw them their entire lives (from the 30's 'til recent). I'm sure the population is nothing like it was decades ago, but they do exist and my family doesn't believe (based on the years and #'s of cats they've seen) that these are just pets that escaped or were set free. Lions also have very large territories, so the fact that every state around us admits to having populations of them is enough proof that they exist here as well. They follow the waterways and prey, that's why we're seeing them in Lawrence. Two rivers, a big lake, lots of wooded and tall grass areas and plenty of deer and small prey.


Posted by common_cents November 7, 2006


They left out my sighting earlier this year just south of 6th and Iowa running into that park area. It could have been a large bobcat, but it seemed a bit large to be one. Had to swerve to miss hitting it.


Posted by carolannfugate November 7, 2006


Funny Guy you are compmd. Seriously, Mountain Lions do exist here and have for some time. Their territories were simply pushed back and they remained for the most part in the confines of their habitat. It is only due to the building and new development that sightings are picking up within the City. We are the invaders here. Keep your pets in at night and share the land.


Posted by tweetybird2 November 7, 2006


I have heard people say they were turned loose to help control the deer population. Anyone know if this is a fact?


Posted by onehotmomma () on November 7, 2006


Does anyone know if there is a Mountain Lion in the 6th and Wak area. Our cat hasn't been seen since late Friday night. Sunday night we heard a pack of coyotes howling. We're hoping the cat is visiting a friend, but I'm starting to think he may have become an appetizer for a hungry wild predator.


Posted by roger_o_thornhill November 7, 2006


I am the mountain lion you saw! Ha ha! You fools! I've been living in your midst all along. You'd think I'd have a different name around here though since there ain't no mountains. 'Cept for Mt. Oread. Maybe I'll skulk around there next. (cue: Mancini. exit stage left.)


Posted by The_Original_Bob November 7, 2006


"I have heard people say they were turned loose to help control the deer population. Anyone know if this is a fact?" That's rumor if you mean the Dept/Wildlife did it. That's been going around forever. It's illegal for one thing. How many Mt. Lions would have to be released to control it? It's not like they eat a deer for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each. Also, it'd be much easier to allow more permits (both resident and non-resident). One thing I don't doubt is folks get these illegally as babies and then realize they are way too much to care for once they get big and release them. A few of the Mt. Lions in SW MO that have been hit by car were declawed. The one that was hit North of KC had claws but was determined it wasn't wild.


Posted by Pywacket November 7, 2006


Good one, compmd! Regarding loudmouthrealist's comments: "Not to say anything about the women in the above mentioned story (I have no reason not to believe her), a visual sighting is not proof of the truth. It might be proof for her, but it is not proof in a scientific sense. Proof of mountain lions will only come from a verifiable photo of a lion or from an actual specimen of a dead lion." Thank goodness! Now we can finally lay to rest all that deity and other mythical beings business. I find a mountain lion in west Lawrence a lot easier to believe than any of that stuff. Of course, if you think you've found some God scat, by all means have the DNR analyze it. Still wouldn't be proof (as some believer may have planted it there), but it would keep the issue going.


Posted by Lonestar1 November 7, 2006


Coyotes will certainly take cats and they seem to be pretty bold this year. I've seen a couple out in the middle of the day, jus chillin, and we are missing 4 cats. The coyotes are coming a lot closer to the house the last couple of years, and we do have a couple of good size dogs in the yard also.


Posted by Kizzy November 7, 2006


I saw a mountain lion while walking my dog on the levee trail back in July. It was almost dark, but the cat was no more than 25 feet from me. Luckily my dog didn't notice. The cat slowly slinked away into someone's yard. (Watch out Elm Street!) It was quite a sight! Beautiful animal . . .

Posted by monkeyspunk November 7, 2006


I am rooting for the Mountain lions. I hope they kill all the deer in the state, who cares if they take a few cows with 'em. I am sure the gov't can institute some kind of refund policy like they do with wolf kills of livestock in the Northern states. Deer are a menace! Down with Bambi!


Posted by terrapin2 November 7, 2006


My husband saw a mountain lion (cougar, puma, or panther) a few weeks ago out on a friend's farm near Linwood. He first saw the glowing eyes in his headlights and saw the long tail. You can just tell the movement of a cat and it was way too big to be a bobcat and it was all one color (hence Felis concolor or "cat of one color"). He did not get out to look, but our friend told us that while out walking on his land he saw a part of a cow carcass in a tree. The ONLY thing that could take the carcass into a tree in Kansas is a mountain lion. I think it is fantastic that we have mountain lions here. Their range used to cover the entire United States and we could certainly use a natural way of keeping the deer population in check. Too many people are hurt or killed by deer on the road, not to mention all the damage done to cars!


Posted by oscarfactor November 7, 2006


Bigger threat to kitty cats in Lawrence: Coyotes, Mountain Lions or Chinese restaurants?


Posted by Bassetlover November 7, 2006


A mountain lion was spotted on a farm in the southwest part of the county a few weeks ago scoping out some sheep. Thankfully the dog herded them up and got them in the barn/lean-to so they'd be safe. Pretty scary for area farmers, knowing a predator like this is out there preying on their livestock.


Posted by Mark_Jakubauskas November 7, 2006


Hello, I'm the guy who took the photo and found the cougar scat up on West Campus. Thought I'd chime in here. 1) Yes, we took a photo using an automatic game camera of an animal on West campus in October 2003 that some experts have identified as a cougar. It's not 100% sure, since the head can't be see, but the size, shape, color, context, and tail length only fit the description of a cougar. 2) I found the scat and sent it away for DNA testing. It revealed that the scat was indeed cougar, from a male, and the animal had been eating principally rabbits. As to the allegation that "we don't know who put it there" - well, let's just say that there's 400 acres of grassland and forest in West Campus, that no one knew where I had placed the camera, and that if someone planted the scat there to be found they had to have a reasonable expectation that a), I would find it; b), I would collect it; c), I would know where to send it for testing. And no, I didn't plant it there and I'll swear to that in a court of law. So by claiming "someone planted the scat there" - that's applying a far higher standard than we'd apply to a murder case: "Yes, that was my blood and semen at the crime scene and on the victim - BUT WE DON'T KNOW HOW IT GOT THERE!" See ? Doesn't pass the laugh test. 3) As for Wildlife and Parks saying that it could be a sighting of a wild cougar OR an escaped captive, and that there is no evidence of a breeding population in Kansas: That's the absolute truth, they're working off the best scientific evidence we have to date (which isn't much), and I think the response was entirely accurate and appropriate. 4) As for the old chestnut about "Wildlife and Parks introduced cougars to control the deer population..." geez, that's been claimed in every state that has had cougars return, has never been proven, never had any kind of evidence brought forward, and finally, has never passed the laugh test for silliness! Mark Jakubauskas, Kansas Biological Survey.


Posted by The_Original_Bob November 7, 2006


Thanks, Mark. Especially 3 and 4.


Posted by ranger73 November 7, 2006




Posted by Irish_Prince November 7, 2006


Maybe it was a momma and poppa mountain lion that attack Professor Mirecki last December (in the early morning hours when Professor Mirecki just so happened to be out in the middle of nowhere going for a drive...and there weren't any witnesses around)? The powers that be have yet to capture any mountain lion(s)...and Mirecki's attackers have yet to be caught as well! Coincidence?


Posted by prospector November 7, 2006


Thanks you Mark and you get many a laugh test around here. If introduced for deer control, it failed miserably. The rut is on now, so be extra careful the next couple weeks. Actually, all the time.

Mark, you stated: "...and the animal had been eating principally rabbits." Could you reveal what else was on the menu?


Posted by Informed November 7, 2006


Right on, Irish_Prince. You may have just solved the Mirecki case. Your story is certainly as believable as his was.


Posted by OldEnuf2BYurDad November 7, 2006


"Better not bring your kids!" - Dave Chappelle


Posted by Bone777 November 7, 2006


I thought I thaw a puddy-cat!!!!


Posted by Mark_Jakubauskas November 7, 2006


Prospector, Other things on the menu included pocket gophers and voles, in addition to the rabbits. Here's an excerpt:


Diet Analysis:

Bone: Various bone fragments were removed from the scat including jawbones and whole intact appendages from small mammals. It was not possible to determine family or species for the majority of the bone fragments, but most were from small mammals. The jawbones were identified as vole (Microtus) and pocket gopher (Geomys). Small rabbit teeth were also found.


Hair: A variety of hair types were found, but most could not be identified due to lack of sources for comparison. A rabbit and cougar were two identifiable organisms (Figure 2). Hair characteristics of many small hairs were consistent with characteristics in small mammal such as mice and voles.


Posted by prospector November 7, 2006


Interesting, thank you.


Posted by loudmouthrealist November 8, 2006


Thanks Mark; Great info. I did not see any of the info you posted regarding the analysis of the scat previously. Do you have a higher resolution picture that was in the LJW posted anywhere? The one on the LJW is really fuzzy. If so please let us know. And your explanation of no one knowing where your camera site was goes a long way to rule out foul play regarding the scat.


Posted by overthemoon November 8, 2006


I saw the big cat...or a big cat...on west campus at about 9:00 PM last week. was driving up Crestline just before the turn to the Dole Institute and a very large animal ran in front of my car, about 15-20 yards ahead. It was most definitely not a dog or a big tabby cat. It was about the size of Labrador, had a distinctly catlike gate (it was loping along at a pretty quick pace) and its tail was very long and dark and bushy at the tip. Guess I should have reported this?


Posted by lilzcoop November 8, 2006


My husband & I have each seen them. Twice over by the Gardner Lake dam,once over by the caves by Holiday (along KS river in KCK) and twice on Sunflower Ammo. Plant property off Old 10 Hwy. one of which times he & his boss stopped & watched 2 of them running & jumping up on large hay bales.


Posted by innocuous_posts November 8, 2006


Note to self: when visiting the Lawrence area, don't carry raw salmon in pockets.




Copyright 2006, The Lawrence Journal-World.