Mountain lions are a rare sight in the Midwest, but one recently wandered right past an Iowa hunter sitting silently in a tree stand overhead, video shows.
It’s difficult to see at first, a tan figure moving low through the trees and foliage, hidden enough for a skeptic to claim it’s a bobcat — until it suddenly leaps forward into perfect view of the hunter’s camera.
The cougar cautiously looks from side to side and stops in a grassy clearing, stock-still as if listening for something amid the background noise of traffic passing outside the woods.
If it’s aware of the hunter, it doesn’t show.
“Don’t even breathe,” one person commented on the social media post, shared Oct. 10 by the Madison County Sheriff’s Office
“Holy crap he could be up that tree stand in a few seconds,” wrote another.
The hunter’s encounter is one of several recent mountain lion sightings in Madison County, the sheriff’s office said. The sheriff in neighboring Warren County has been receiving reports as well, according to the post.
“We do not believe there is any danger to the public as these sightings have been in remote areas not regularly traveled by the public,” the Madison County Sheriff’s Office said, adding that it’s unclear if these sightings are of the same mountain lion, or if there’s more than one wandering southern Iowa.
Cougars are rare throughout the Midwest and Iowa is no exception, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
The last historical record of a mountain lion in Iowa was in 1867, and that account shines light on how early settlers interacted with the animals: They shot and killed them.
“The pioneers did not see their presence of any value to their own way of life, so basically persecution by humans brought their demise,” the department said.
For generations, cougars were seemingly erased from the state — until reports of big cat sightings began trickling into DNR in the mid-1990s, the department says. Sightings have continued since, and while most are bogus or lack proof, department data shows over 30 mountain lion sightings have been confirmed since 1995.
There are currently no protections for mountain lions in Iowa, though DNR has in the past championed legislative efforts to prevent “indiscriminate killing” of the animals, to make it illegal to kill them unless they are about to attack people or livestock.
All mountain lions spotted in Iowa in recent decades are believed to have wandered in from western states, such as Wyoming, where there are established populations, experts say. There are no established breeding populations in Iowa.
“It is doubtful that the mountain lion will ever have much presence in Iowa,” according to DNR. “There is some question about whether Iowa (is actually) good mountain lion habitat. The tolerance or intolerance of humans will dictate whether they will ever be able to get a foothold in the state.”
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