WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Danny Holden had a hunch that there was a mountain lion living on his southern Kansas property, and an image he found on a trail camera along a wide path last week seems to be proof that he was right.
Holden, 51, was cutting up sand near a creek bottom on his Sumner County property on Wednesday when he noticed the image of what appears to be a mountain lion on the camera, The Wichita Eagle reported.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this photo,” Holden said Thursday evening. “I’ve thought we had him down here for several years. My son saw one, and I’ve seen the tracks. This photo, right here, is indisputable proof.”
If verified by biologists from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, it would be the 13th verified mountain lion in Kansas since 2007. Before that, mountain lions had not been documented in the state for more than 100 years.
Matt Peek, a biologist with the state wildlife department, said there were several documented mountain lion sightings last month in northwest and north-central Kansas. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if the lion on Holden’s property is the same one spotted farther north.
“We wouldn’t rule out the possibility that this is the same animal that passed through there,” he said.
The mountain lion verified in 2007 was shot by a landowner near Medicine Lodge. Since them, most of the sightings have been recorded by remote cameras placed to photograph deer or other animals.
Biologists in Kansas and other states say most of the lions appear to be young males that likely were pushed from areas with high mountain lion populations, such as the Rocky Mountains or Black Hills.
Peek said there is no proof that mountain lions actually live in Kansas, rather than simply passing through. It’s unlikely that a male lion would spend much time in an area where there are no female lions, he said.
“We have never found a kitten, no road kills, no trail camera pictures of kittens. We have no repeated documentation of mountain lions in the same area,” he said.
Other than in northwestern Nebraska, near the Black Hills, there has been no evidence documented in the Midwest of mountain lion reproduction, he said.
Holden said the 160 acres his family owns, along with neighboring properties along the Chikaskia River, could make an ideal home for a mountain lion.