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Posted on Fri, Jun. 04, 2004
 
 I M A G E S 
This mountain lion was found in Oklahoma, about 40 miles south of Arkansas City. It migrated hundreds of miles from Wyoming, and officials say it almost certainly traveled through Kansas.
Courtesy photo
This mountain lion was found in Oklahoma, about 40 miles south of Arkansas City. It migrated hundreds of miles from Wyoming, and officials say it almost certainly traveled through Kansas.

Mountain lion found near Kansas




The Wichita Eagle

A mountain lion found dead just south of the Kansas state line last week is making news for two reasons.

Only 40 miles south of Arkansas City, it's the first wild mountain lion confirmed in this area in 100 years.

And, thanks to a tracking collar, it's known to have traveled a long distance in a short time.

The mountain lion -- found near Red Rock, Okla. --was last tracked via its collar in the northwestern part of the Black Hills of Wyoming on Sept. 3, 2003, said Jonathan Jenks, a wildlife professor at South Dakota State University.

"Then it shows up in Oklahoma. That's 667 straight-line miles," Jenks said. That's twice as far as any collared mountain lion has been known to travel.

Jenks, supervisor of a mountain lion research project in the Black Hills of western South Dakota, said the cat was treed with hounds, tranquilized and fitted with a tracking collar on Feb. 24, 2003.

By Sept. 3, it had moved 58 miles northwest into Wyoming's Black Hills.

On May 27, while inspecting a section of railroad track, Bruce Endorf of Arkansas City saw the mountain lion lying dead 2 miles south of Red Rock. It apparently was struck by a train.

The next day, Endorf e-mailed pictures to Tracy Daniel, a game warden with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"I was skeptical," Daniel said. "It seems like we get a mountain lion report every day but they never pan out.

"But it was laying right there where he said it was. It was an impressive looking cat."

The male cat was taken to a research facility at Oklahoma State University. Officials said it weighed 114 pounds and was thought to be 2 years old.

Jenks said the mountain lion was from a thriving population of about 145 in the Black Hills.

Oklahoma has a very small mountain lion population in the rugged country that makes up the far western tip of the state's Panhandle. Daniel said last week's animal is the state's only confirmed wild mountain lion east of that region.

Nebraska and Missouri have had confirmed wild mountain lions within the last year. All have been young males thought to be looking for a home territory.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks said the last confirmed wild Kansas mountain lion was killed in Ellis County in 1904. Department biologists have long said it's possible a mountain lion could wander into Kansas.

Jenks said it's highly probable.

"Judging from where it was found, compared to where it came from, it would have had a difficult time not going through Kansas," Jenks said.

He said male mountain lions often follow rivers as they wander. The Arkansas River passes within a few miles of where the animal died.


Reach Eagle outdoors writer Michael Pearce at 268-6382 or mpearce@wichitaeagle.com.

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