Council Grove Republican
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Volume 131 – Number 84
Plains Folk – By Jim Hoy and Tom Isern
By Jim Hoy
Officially, the last mountain lion in Kansas was killed during the first decade of the twentieth century 1903, if I recall correctly, but reports of lion-spottings have been around for several decades. Tom pokes fun at me for thinking I saw a big tawny cat with a long tail run across the road in front of me just north of Cassoday back in the early 1960s. It was about one or two in the morning and since I don’t drink coffee I might not have been as alert as I should have been on that empty road, but, as do all good cat-spotters, I know that what I saw was no dog, even it is was bigger than a German Shepherd.
Last summer about dusk my wife saw two large, tan, long-tailed animals run across the road and disappear into some trees near the Council Grove city lake. She’s not one to exaggerate or sensationalize, and she doesn’t claim that they were mountain lions, but she says they weren’t coyotes, nor did they resemble any canine she knows of.
Earlier this winter a motorist ran over and killed a mountain lion on a highway in a wooded area just north of Kansas City, Missouri. Officials were investigating the possibility that it had escaped from someone’s private menagerie, but the lack of a follow-up report suggests to me that the animal was probably a wild one, not an escapee. It seems there have been enough sightings (and not all of them occurring within an hour or so after bar-closing time) to confirm that the big cats are moving back into their primordial haunts in the central plains.
Even Tom has come around a little on the subject. Let me quote from an email he sent me early last December: “You’ll like this, since I know you’re a believer in mountain lions in Kansas. (Whereas I don’t usually admit to having watched one strolling across a McPherson County stubblefield for 15 minutes one morning.)” That’s the first time he’s admitted that story to me.
Tom went on to report about mountain lions in North Dakota, where he now lives in the far eastern part of the state. “There are mountain lions in the West River, of course – lots of them in South Dakota, and enough in southwest North Dakota, which people don’t talk about much. Yesterday, though, there was a confirmed sighting, with photos by a sheriff’s deputy, in Grand Forks County. That kitty is really lost.” Grand Forks, like Fargo, is located on the eastern border of the state.
A few years ago we were in Hays and picked up a local paper. The front page story was about a tiger, or possibly tigers, roaming between Hays and Plainville. A couple of witnesses, credible ones, had seen a tiger in the rough country of the Saline River breaks near the county line. Seeing as how the mascot of Fort Hays State University is the tiger, it seemed an appropriate place for tigers to be running loose in Kansas.
Shortly after Tom’s mountain-lion email, he sent me this one: “Speaking of big cats, I had a note not long ago from a former student in Ellis. Her husband is a game warden, who was called out to investigate a cattle kill. He called in a predator control specialist, who had some DNA work done, and called back to report the animal that had killed the cattle. It was a TIGER. I’ll bet that put a little adventure into wading into the CRP for pheasants!”
I’ll bet it did! But panthers and tigers aren’t the only dangerous beasts to threaten hunters in the Kansas hinterlands. How about being attacked by a four-hundred-pound wild boar? That story in my next column.