An image captured on a trail camera in Clinton County during the past week has been confirmed as a mountain lion by wildlife biologists from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
“We want the public to know that we have a confirmed photo of a mountain lion, but we don’t want to alarm the public,” said Vince Evelsizer, a DNR wildlife biologist.
“When it comes to mountain lions, Iowa tends to be a place to pass through, but not to stay. It is very likely this animal will keep moving, if it’s even still in the area, and will keep to itself,” Evelsizer said.
The photo was taken from a wooded area along the Wapsipinicon River in the eastern part of Clinton County. DNR conservation officers were able to confirm the location where the photo was taken by matching the surrounding landscape to what is shown in the photo.
The mountain lion is likely a young male that has been pushed from its native area by older, dominant males. It's estimated to be around 6 feet long and 28 to 30 inches tall, a typical size for a young adult.
The lion likely came from a state west of Iowa, and the fact that is already on Iowa’s far eastern border suggests that it will likely continue to wander. Mountain lions have the ability to move several hundred miles in a short period of time, said Evelsizer.
It’s not uncommon, especially in the fall, to have male mountain lions traveling hundreds of miles seeking food and females, Evelsizer said.
While the DNR gets many reports each year of mountain lion sightings, only a very small percentage are ever confirmed by the department. Most sightings are mistaken identity with other animals such as bobcats or yellow coated dogs.
“But in this case, we’ve got a pretty good image from the trail camera. I don’t have any doubt on this one that we have an image of a mountain lion,” said Evelsizer.
Evelsizer also said that a reported mountain lion sighting in Iowa City Sept. 14 was not a mountain lion. The DNR looked at two cell phone photos, and concluded they likely show a dog or cat.
In the past 150 years, only 19 U.S. human fatalities have occurred from mountain lion attacks. Fortunately, none have occurred in Iowa. Generally a mountain lion will sense human presence before humans know they are in the area and the mountain lions will quickly vacate the area. However, if one has an unexpected rare encounter with a mountain lion the following is recommended:
- DON’T RUN! Running will stimulate certain animals to chase you (like a dog that wants to bite you, especially if you run).
- Stand tall, look big, puff up, lift your coat over your shoulders.
- Take control of the situation. Scream loudly, throw objects.
- Gather children in close and slowly back away keeping your eye on the animal.
- If attacked, fight back vigorously with sharp objects and poke the eyes of the animal.