Mountain lion number eight is proving to be quite elusive. As some of you know, eight mountain lions can be harvested this year in zone 1. Mountain lion numbers six and seven were taken during the weekend of November 15. Perhaps like you, I didn’t expect the season to extend past deer gun season.
Historically mountain lions ranged over much of the western 11 states with scattered populations eastward. As you would expect, they were widely viewed as a threat, so were killed indiscriminately.
Here in North Dakota they were native to the western portions of the state but were extirpated during settlement in the late 1800’s. From the early 1900’s until 1958 there was no confirmation of a mountain lion in the state. Things remained quiet until 1991 when a mountain lion was shot in Golden Valley County. After that things changed quickly. Now of course North Dakota has a limited season on them, as does South Dakota.
It appears that mountain lions are expanding their range eastward into the Midwest. According to the Cougar Network, since 1990 there have been confirmed sightings in all states west of the Mississippi River.
That shouldn’t surprise us. After all, many states in the region are supporting near record deer populations. Deer are an important food item for mountain lions, and the mountain lions apparent range expansion is certainly influenced by food abundance and availability. If the mountain lions can dodge an occasional bullet, life is probably pretty good.
I recently read the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s publication “Mountain Lions in North Dakota.” It is a good primer on mountain lion biology and ecology. It also contains suggestions on what to do if you encounter a mountain lion, such as stay calm, don’t run, and try to appear large and in other ways attempt to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey.
There were also suggestions for people who live or recreate in mountain lion country. One common sense suggestion was “Do not feed wildlife, especially deer.” As you might expect, feeding deer may also be setting the table for the mountain lions!
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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