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Unconfirmed sighting of mountain lion reported in FD

-Submitted photo
A mountain lion was caught on this surveillance camera in Winterset in October of 2013. According to Vince Evelsizer, of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, sightings such as this one are rare. Since 1995, there have only been 27 confirmed sightings of mountain lions in Iowa, according to the DNR.

Mountain lion sightings in Iowa are rare, but on Wednesday night the Fort Dodge Police Department and Iowa Department of Natural Resources received a report of a possible sighting in Fort Dodge.

According to Police Chief Roger Porter, a woman thought she saw a mountain lion on Soldier Creek Trail, about 50 yards from the playground at Snell-Crawford Park.

Porter said she saw the animal crouched down in some grass.

He said officers checked the area, but nothing was found.

As of Wednesday night, it was not a considered a confirmed sighting as no visual evidence was provided.

But that doesn’t mean the animal wasn’t a mountain lion, according to Vince Evelsizer, furbearer and wetland biologist for the Iowa DNR.

Since 1995, there have been 27 confirmed mountain lion sightings in Iowa, Evelsizer reported.

“That’s not very high and we do not have a breeding population of mountain lions known in Iowa,” he said. “However, we take every report seriously because we do get the occasional visiting mountain lion coming into our state.”

Evelsizer said some people get confused when officials don’t confirm sightings of certain animals.

“If we get a report and we don’t confirm it, it doesn’t mean we don’t believe it or take it serious,” he said. “It just means we don’t have enough evidence in the form of a photo or direct sighting.”

He added, “They take that to mean we don’t believe them. I just want to emphasize that we appreciate the reports from the public about such sightings because it’s helpful.”

So far in 2019, no mountain lions have been caught on camera in Webster County, according to Matt Cosgrove, director of Webster County Conservation.

In the event that someone sees a mountain lion, Evelsizer advised to keep a safe distance away from it.

“First and foremost, give it space,” he said. “Keep your distance. If you can, try and get a good photo or multiple photos or a video clip of the animal. But keep a safe distance.”

He encourages the public to report information to the DNR.

“We can help them in identifying the animal and determine if there is immediate threat of human safety in the area or not,” Evelsizer said. “Mountain lions generally try to avoid humans. Their main prey in the Midwest is white-tailed deer. In the west it’s mule deer. Here in the Midwest it will be white-tailed deer and other smaller animals.”

Evelsizer said while there’s no strong pattern to where the animals turn up, mountain lions tend to move into Iowa from west to east.

“From our testing, they have come from South Dakota’s Black Hills, Nebraska, or Wyoming,” he said.

Most mountain lions that have come to Iowa have been adult males aged 2 to 3 years old, Evelsizer said.

He compared that age to an 18 to 24-year-old young male human.

“They are usually looking for new territory that is not occupied,” Evelsizer said.

Most mountain lions that the DNR has weighed tend to be between 90 and 110 pounds.

The largest mountain lion on record was a male found in Sioux County that weighed 140 pounds.

In 2017, Iowa had two confirmed female mountain lions that had been killed.

According to Evelsizer, those were the first females documented in Iowa in more than 100 years.

“The state of Missouri had their first documented female that year, too,” he said.

But since that time, no other females have been found in Iowa.

Mountain lion attacks on humans are essentially non-existent, according to Evelsizer.

Since the DNR began keeping record in the 1930s, there have been no human attacks from mountain lions in Iowa.