Arkansas records first mountain lion in modern times
An automatic camera picked up the cougar in west-central Arkansas.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.--A hunter's trail monitor has discovered what years of
searching by state officials could not--the first mountain lion in modern
Don Scott of Little Rock got the surprise of his life in August when he
looked at pictures taken by the infra-red-activated camera he placed near
Winona Wildlife Management Area between Little Rock and Hot Springs. They
showed an adult mountain lion padding through the forest.
The sighting follows close on the heels of Missouri's second confirmed
mountain lion occurrence in a year. Cougars killed by cars near Kansas City
last October and Fulton in August brought to seven the number of officially
confirmed cougars in the Show Me State since the first modern occurrence in
1994. The Arkansas sighting confirms that state's nickname, "The Natural
Officials with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spent several years in
the 1980s and 1990s identifying possible cougar habitat and then hired a
professional hunter from Texas to scour those areas with his hounds. Hunter
and hounds came up blank. This, together with the lack of road kills or
other concrete evidence, led the Game and Fish Commission to conclude that
Arkansas had no free-ranging mountain lions.
When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approached Arkansas officials about
the possibility of participating in efforts to restore the Florida panther,
a rare subspecies of mountain lion that once roamed the Gulf Coastal states,
they declined, noting the potential for conflicts with the state's human
Arkansas officials note that while the photos of the mountain lion confirm
its presence, they don't provide any clue to the animal's origins. They say
more than 100 cougars are kept as pets in Arkansas, and without more
information they can't rule out the possibility that the cat in Scott's
photographs either escaped or was released from captivity.
The Game and Fish Commission says The Natural State likely has some
free-ranging cougars but how many and where they are coming from is still a
mystery. That echoes statements by Conservation Department officials in
Missouri. They speculate that mountain lions might be migrating east from
Texas, Colorado or South Dakota, which have established cougar populations.
The east-flowing Missouri and Arkansas rivers provide convenient travel
corridors for young male cougars dispersing from their birth areas to
establish territories of their own.
Arkansas once was home to the Florida panther, a Southeastern subspecies of
mountain lion. The Game and Fish Commission maintains that this subspecies
has been extirpated in Arkansas and no longer exists there.
"Any mountain lion in the wild in Arkansas is not an endangered Florida
panther unless proven otherwise," said Game and Fish Commission
Communications Director Nancy S. Ledbetter.
- Jim Low -
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