Mountain lion too close for comfort

Mountain Lion
(Photo courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation)

I was startled a couple of weeks ago to learn a mountain lion (cougar) had been on the prowl in the Las Vegas neighborhood where I stay in the winter. Maybe prowl is not the correct term since the 70-pound, female cat appeared confused and lost to the police officers who responded to the scene and the wildlife officers who eventually tranquilized her.

Make no mistake, there’s plenty of wild life in Las Vegas. Although it is generally the two-legged variety, not four-legged.

This cat was first spotted in Summerlin, an upscale residential neighborhood on the west side of the city. My condo is about seven miles away – way too close for comfort in my opinion since mountain lions have been known to range thousands of miles.

The abundance of golf courses and soccer fields in the area would make it easy for the cat to move freely into the city without attracting too much attention.

Quite a few local residents videoed the cat wandering around their homes, backyards, and pools. At one point it was close to an elementary school. Of course, school was not in session.

The whole encounter made the national news (western edition) but went unnoticed in the east.

Mountain lions are known to roam the Spring Mountains that lie north and west of Las Vegas. Hikers and campers are always told to be on the alert for possible encounters. But what exactly brought this one into the city remains a matter of speculation.

A large forest fire in early June in those mountains may have killed off much of the cat’s prey, forcing it to wander farther from home in search of food. And the city is growing westward, bordering the animal’s territory, which is largely U.S. government land.

Fortunately for everyone, the wandering cat was successfully tranquilized and transported back into the Spring Mountains for release.

Mountain lions are most abundant in South Dakota and are on the increase in most western states. They have been spotted as close to Ohio as Missouri and Illinois. Others have been seen in Iowa and Kansas, too. A Dakota mountain lion turned up in a Chicago suburb in 2008.

All these were likely two-year-old males searching for breeding territory. Like many other wildlife, they probably followed stream corridors as they traveled eastward.

When I was at the Ohio DNR in 2010, a radio-collared mountain lion was road-killed in Connecticut. Its collar showed it came from South Dakota via Minnesota and Wisconsin.

How it got across (or around) the Great Lakes without being detected is anybody’s guess!

Categories: Ohio – Jane Beathard

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