WaKeeney, Trego County, Kansas – Official County and City Paper

Thursday, October 17, 2002

122nd Year – No. 33

Front Page

Could a Tiger or African Lion Be Wandering Around Trego County?

Large Animal Tracks Found Near Collyer

Approximately a week and a half ago a horse owned by Howard and Mischell Sauer died, whether or not it was killed has not been determined, but close to where the horse was found dead, there were large animal tracks also found.

Howard Sauer called the Trego County Dispatch at the Law Enforcement Center on Saturday morning, October 5th and said he was in the pasture and that two bobcats had killed a horse. The dispatcher told Howard that she would get in touch with Wildlife and Parks about the incident. The horse apparently had died on Thursday, October 3rd. Later that morning Mischell Sauer called dispatch and told them that there had been two bob cats around their place for the past two months and they had killed her horse. At 9:16 am on Saturday Mel Madorin, Wildlife and Parks officer called the dispatch and were advised of the incident and Madorin said he would take care of the incident. The dispatcher reported this directly to the Wildlife and Parks, and a Trego County Sheriff’s Officer was not contacted.

Kansas Wildlife and Parks Conservation Officer Shane Ziegler, visited the site, looked at the horse and viewed the large tracks. "I couldn’t see anything conclusive that showed that the horse was killed by anything, it had been eaten by coyotes," Ziegler said. Ziegler said he didn’t see any claw marks on the horse where it lay, however the horse was not rolled over.

Ziegler also saw the areas that Sauer’s claimed were tracks, but he said he couldn’t tell anything from them. "I saw one circular track, but couldn’t determine anything from it."

Ziegler did say that because tigers are protected on the endangered species list – they can only be killed if they are endangering human life. A Mountain Lion can be killed for endangering human life or livestock.

According to Ziegler that if the horse was killed by an exotic animal, the commissioners could look at banning those animals from the county or putting a tax on them.

Jerry Bump, Wildlife and Parks Regional Enforcement Supervisor, said that because there was no proof that this animal existed they are not planning anything special at this point. They will continue their normal patrols.

Following Ziegler’s visit to the Sauer residence, the Chief Law Enforcement Officer for Wildlife and Parks contacted Charles Lee, who is the Extension Wildlife Specialist at Kansas State University.

Lee, along with Stacie Minson, Trego County Extension Ag Agent, visited the site on Tuesday, October 8.

Lee said that when he visited the site the horse had already been buried and it was impossible for him to determined the cause of the horse’s death. "I looked at the tracks, but they were too indistinct to make a determination of what made the tracks."

"We saw tracks in the pasture where the horse had struggled before it was brought down. The tracks appeared to be six inches in diameter and round, but too indistinct to make a determination of the type of track they were," Lee said.

Lee said that in his experience the tracks were too large to be a dog track or a Mountain Lion track. He said that while he can’t make a determination of the kind of track, the only animal that could make a track that large and that shape would be a tiger or an African Lion.

"I did not tell the Sauer’s that this was a tiger," Lee said. "I took hair samples and they turned out to be dog hair, the Emergency Preparedness Officer also took some hair samples and they were horse hair."

"I can’t say what made the tracks, but there are some things that couldn’t have made these tracks," Lee said. "I took some plaster casts of Mountain Lion tracks to the site and we compared them to the tracks at the Sauer’s, the Mountain Lion tracks were nearly twice as small as the tracks near Collyer."

Lee said that he looked at 8 to 10 of the large tracks, as well as dog and coyote tracks that were present at the location. Some of the large tracks were as close as 20 to 30 yards from the Sauer’s home.

Lee’s advice to Trego County residents is to carry on. "Until you know what animal you are dealing with you can’t prevent danger, keep your livestock monitored," Lee said. Anyone who sights the animal or has wildlife losses should contact the Trego County Sheriff’s Office or the Wildlife and Parks Conservation Officer.

According to Lee this is not the first report of a tiger in Northwest Kansas. There were several reports east of Hays about two years ago and then about a year ago that several people observed a tiger. Lee said he saw some indistinct tracks at that site also, however they were not as large as the tracks near Collyer.