WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Native to the Americas, mountain lions, also known as cougars, are large, tan cats. They can be identified by their tawny-beige fur, excluding their whitish-gray belly and chest, and black markings that decorate the tip of their tail, ears and snout. According to the National Wildlife Federation, adult males weigh between 115 and 220 pounds and adult females weigh between 64 and 141 pounds.
Mountain lions are only occasionally confirmed in Kansas, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.
The one spotted in Wichita brings the total number of confirmed mountain lions sighted in modern times, or since 2007, in Kansas to 36. Twelve of those have been in the past nine months.
Matt Peek, a wildlife research biologist at the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism says that based on its appearance, it is probably a sub-adult lion.
“It’s relatively lean and not as bulky as what adults often are. So, it probably is what we typically have seen as a sub-adult animal. And so in that case, like I said, it’s probably moving across the landscape, and it’s likely to get out of there as soon as it possibly can. And that’s what we’re hoping for as well,” said Peek.
The KDWPT has no evidence of a breeding population in the state. An investigation by the KDWPT of this week’s sighting led to the confirmation.
Investigations occur when evidence exists, which can include possible tracks, cached killings, droppings, fur and a photograph or video. Staff may visit the location of the sighting to examine and measure certain features in images or videos to judge the size of the animal better.
The video that confirmed the mountain lion sighting in Wichita was caught by Cristin Boyle Ring doorbell early Monday morning. It captured the mountain lion strolling down through Boyle’s backyard between houses.
The KDWPT states that there is not a hunting season for mountain lions in Kansas, and they may not be killed without reason. Mountain lions can be destroyed when found in or near buildings on-premises or when destroying property. Before resorting to killing the animal, reasonable efforts must be made to alleviate the problem.
Although the potential for being killed or injured by a mountain lion is quite low, the National Park Service has recommendations if you happen to cross paths with one.
If you see a mountain lion, stay calm, do not approach or run from it and do not crouch or bend over. Doing so will make you look more like a four-legged prey animal.
If a mountain lion moves in your direction or acts aggressively, do all that you can to appear intimidating. This includes appearing to look larger or throwing things in its direction.
If a mountain lion continues to move in your direction, start throwing things at it. Do not aim for its head, as doing so can damage its eyesight, increasing the chance of an attack. The few mountain lion attacks on humans are done so by ones that are injured, stressed and/or hungry.
If a mountain lion does happen to attack you, fight back. Use any items you have or that are around you, such as rocks, sticks, a hat or jacket, garden tools or even your bare hands. If you happen to have a backpack, use it as a shield. Try to remain to stand and face the animal.