Kansas Cougar: First in 100+ Years!

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 27th, 2008


Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks game warden Tracy Galvin displays the pelt of a mountain lion that was killed in Barber County last November [2007]. Galvin has been investigating the rumor that a mountain lion had been killed in Kansas for the past several weeks. This is probably the first confirmed wild mountain lion in Kansas in over 100 years. Charges are pending against the individual who killed the lion.

This incident raises many questions about the probable treatment of any individual who decides to “prove” the existence of an “unbelievable” cryptid, like a Mystery Cat or a Bigfoot, by shooting it. No wonder that in the three alleged cases of “black panthers” being killed in the South, all three shooters buried the felid bodies because they were afraid they might have broken some laws.

Same goes for various Sasquatch stories in the past.

As many of you know, I do not condone the “kill Bigfoot” approach, but I certainly am not in support of setting up a situation in which all the evidence always disappears because of legal fears. It’s a paradox as to what to do. ~ Loren

Mountain lion killed in Kansas by Michael Pearce/The Wichita Eagle

Medicine Lodge – The long-standing debate about the presence of wild mountain lions in Kansas appears to be over.

For the first time in more than 100 years, state wildlife officials think they have confirmation of such an animal.

Tracy Galvin, a state Department of Wildlife and Parks game warden, took possession Monday of a mountain lion pelt shot west of Medicine Lodge in November.

A Barber County resident said he shot the catwhile cutting wood on his property.

Galvin said the man saw the mountain lion nearby, walked to his truck, grabbed a rifle and shot it.

Charges are pending since it’s illegal to shoot a mountain lion in Kansas “unless it’s a threat to life or property,” Galvin said.

Galvin started investigating local rumors of the cat killing about three weeks ago.

The landowner admitted to the shooting and arranged to have the pelt returned from a Texas taxidermist, Galvin said.

He told Galvin he had previously seen big cats in the area.

Matt Peek, a furbearer biologist for Wildlife and Parks, described the event as substantial.

While it’s believed the cat was wild, DNA testing will be done to see if it came from wild or domestic stock.

Many reports

Biologists say there’s no need for Kansans to fear for their safety. The cats are known to be reclusive and contact with humans is rare.

Reports of big cats in Kansas have been coming since the last one was killed in the western part of the state in 1904.

While reported sightings have numbered in the thousands, Peek said proof has been nonexistent.

He and a number of biologists have followed leads but haven’t found such solid evidence as tracks, droppings, a carcass or hair.

For about 15 years, Bob Wilson of Garden City has scoured the western half of Kansas placing infrared cameras in areas where big cats have been reported, using road-kill deer for bait.

He said after “countless” camera placements, “I got a number of very interesting bobcat shots, tons of coyotes and deer, but as for mountain lions… zero.”

Kansas has come close a few times, like trail camera pictures of out-of-focus tan animals and piles of feces originally identified as mountain lion, only to have the lab testing come into question.

Last summer, an Audubon of Kansas Web site posted what it claimed was proof, though trained biologists who looked at the fuzzy photos and plaster casts of tracks said neither were of a lion.

Several mountain lions captured or killed proved to be released or escaped captive animals.

All around us

Neighboring states have plenty of proof of wild lions. Peek said there’s a healthy population in a rugged part of southeast Colorado within 80 miles of the Kansas border.

Studies have shown that male mountain lions, like the one killed in Barber County, routinely range that far to establish a territory.

Nebraska has about 50 confirmations, with most coming since 2004.

Their cats have been traced to a growing population in South Dakota’s Black Hills.

Missouri has about 10 confirmations, including a road kill within a few miles of Kansas.

Among others, in 2004 Oklahoma authorities found a lion hit by a train about 40 miles south of the Kansas state line. It was wearing a tracking collar from South Dakota.

“We’ve never said we didn’t have any because of the likelihood a few have been through the state,” Peek said. “This is just the first one that happened to get killed that we’re aware of so we can verify it.”

Had the shooter known the law, Kansas might still be without a confirmation.

“When I told him it was against the law to shoot one, his eyes really bugged out,” Galvin said. “I really don’t think he knew it was illegal.”

Because he’s been “super-cooperative,” Galvin said, he doesn’t plan to press felony charges of taking an illegally killed animal across state lines.

Penalties for conviction of shooting a protected species and possessing a protected species each carry fines up to $500 and up to one year in jail.

The Barber County kill also doesn’t mean there’s a thriving population.

Mark Dowling, along with Wilson, founded the Cougar Network in 2002 to study mountain lions in nontraditional areas.

“When you are in mountain lion country you’re lucky to see one or two in your life, but you can find lion tracks and signs everywhere. It’s not hard,” he said. “If Kansas had a population, (verifiable) signs and tracks should be easy to find. But they’re not.”

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

21 Responses to “Kansas Cougar: First in 100+ Years!”

  1. sschaper responds:

    There is a reason why our ancestors maintained the importance of jury nullification.

  2. hudgeliberal responds:

    The person who killed the lion should get at least 20 years. Shame that a beautiful and rare creature,who because we have stolen his home range,gets killed by some idiot who calls himself a hunter I’m sure. No,the kill theory doesnt cut it with me. As much as I respect Grover Krantz and his contribution to cryptozoology,I always had issue with killing a sasquatch. Unless of course the beast attacked which hasnt been the case in 99 percent of reported sightings. What if that lion was one of a few trying to populate that area,does that idiot understand just what damage that one kill can do to a population that is trying to recover and thrive? Shame.

  3. squatchwatcher responds:

    Here in South Dakota we just had a guy report that he was attacked by a cougar near Sheridan Lake in the Black Hills. Game, Fish, and Parks have yet to confirm it, but the doctors told the papers it does look like a lion attack from the claw marks and bite marks. The guy claims he was taking a leak and the cat came from out of the brush and attacked.

  4. Richard888 responds:

    I agree with hudgeliberal. An unbelievable/mystery/cryptid is always rare so the “shoot for science” approach will always have a major impact. But judging from the three hunters who burried the felid bodies, it sounds like Law doesn’t have much impact on how people think at the moment. They might say “what have I done” later but second degree murder has been done.

  5. shumway10973 responds:

    That guy from south dakota mentioned by squatchwatcher is an example of someone with probable cause for killing something like that. It should be common knowledge that if you kill an animal to prove it was there–it will no longer be there. What it that was the last large cat for Kansas? What then? And as far as shooting big foot…you better make sure you kill it on the first shot. Nothing is worse than an enraged animal that can lift heavy object. You might become endangered yourself.

  6. DWA responds:

    What this might mean for another cryptid we like to discuss here:

    1) it’s virtually certain, I think, that if the sasquatch exists, at least one, and probably more, have been shot, fatally. At least one encounter report is of a hunter killing one; numerous encounter reports have the beast being fired upon, in one case by a Floridian who kicked out his screen door to clear the field of fire, while his daughter watched. They think he missed.

    2) Why none reported to authorities or the public? This is one very likely situation where shoot first, ask questions later is the operative paradigm. I think that at least one person had serious second thoughts after shooting. For more than one very good reason. Legality is only one. (I’m sure that in most states, shooting a critter that is not specifically named as being in season is illegal.) Logistics – and maintaining that all-important Chain of Custody – might be another that would weigh very heavily on one’s mind as one considers skinning this (EXTRAORDINARILY SMELLY) thing out and getting it to the road before a bear or a warden shows up.

    3) Why has no one gone public with finding the body of a sas shot by a hunter? I can think of two reasons: (a) NEVER mess with a carcass in bear country; (b) ALWAYS steer clear of something that smells that bad. If I live sasquatch is supposed to stink to high heaven, what must a dead one smell like?

    I wonder how many hunters have passed (very far from) a sas carcass without having any intention of getting close enough to see what it was. Count on 100 per cent there, no matter how many such instances there have been.

    This illustrates another problem in keeping sas confirmation in the hands of amateurs and scoftics: insufficient knowledge of how the real world really works.

  7. Sunny responds:

    Hooray! Kansas has been proven to have cougars!

    Oh wait…some eejit done went and killed it fer a rug.

    What a proud moment for the human race.

  8. whiteriverfisherman responds:

    I am not sure the guy from Kansas should be called an idiot but I have to agree there was no reason to shoot the cat. I am an avid hunter and I would have definitely handled that situation differently. I too would have gone to the truck to retrieve my rifle but unlike the Kansas fellow I would have only used it if I had to. I think he just had the crap scared out of him and acted without thinking and ended up doing something he regretted. If he did it just to do it then yes that would have been idiotic.

    Most of the hunters I am acquainted with carry a camera with them anytime they have their weapon with them and so do I. I most certainly would have shot the cat with my camera as it passed through. I have gotten into the habit of trying to bring a camera with me any time I go into nature. I have taken some nice photos. Perhaps one day I will get a Bigfoot photo or may be a black panther.

  9. chrisandclauida2 responds:

    shooting a mountain lion is completely different than a bigfoot. mountain lions are animals known to science and as such dont need or deserve to be shot. this is especially true for such animals expanding their territory. as such there are many laws that apply.

    sasquatch is not known to science. science has a long history to collecting specimens of newly discovered species that continues to this day. bigfoot/sasquatch should be no different. a specimen will be collected for a study. weather that’s alive or dead really doesnt matter but probably depends on who is collecting said specimen.

    lets not start the crap about killing bigfoot is homicide. its just that…. crap. i have explained the reasons the term homicide is used and it has to do with the root word meaning man not as a description for any scientific classification. you can not be convicted of killing something that doesnt exist nor is not sentient.

    animal cruelty charges may apply but not homicide. lets grow up and move beyond this no kill scare tactic homicide crap and find the darn thing first. we can name and protect it later.

  10. zendeli responds:

    I grew up in kansascity, we had a farm 30 minutes south, about 20 years ago we were quail hunting when we encountered a cougar/mountain lion in a tree, the dogs went wild and chased the thing for a bit, they came back and that was the last I saw it, but it was real big and had a tail. I never knew that cougars were rare in kansas till this article, kind of neat..

  11. cryptidsrus responds:


    20 years?


    I understand the animal shouldn’t have been shot, but 20 years?

    Somebody here doesn’t like the human race, does he?

  12. cryptidsrus responds:


    In no way shape or form do I condone the killing of the animal.

    I just think there’s such a thing as “overpunishment.”

    Fine—okay; some jail time—okay; but 20 years is overkill, to say the least.

  13. plant girl responds:

    Sunny… I agree this is no way for future generations to see any animal.

    On the floor as a rug.

  14. squatch-toba responds:

    Don’t be calling this guy a “hunter”. He is a criminal. Hunters are, for the VAST majority, law abiding people who are also nature lovers and conservationists. The cougar did not attack this guy. He just shot it because he was able to. Hope the powers that be fine him big time. Maybe a few months in the big-house would be in order too!!

  15. chrisandclauida2 responds:

    i want to place some ooomph to what squatch-toba said;

    it is something that extremists need to understand. hunters and sportsman are solely responsible for many species still being on the face of the earth. there is no greater steward of his environment than a sportsman. most of the recovering and endangered species on the dark continent are only there because sportsman and hunters started initiatives that have maintained these species above extinction.

    poachers are criminals who need to be lawfully prosecuted. but 20 years? you dont get that for most forms of murder sex crimes or property crimes.

    there are laws on the books so allow the people of this state use them and move on.

  16. Spinach Village responds:

    I would love to hear a stat stating how many mountain lions are registered as pets in the US…That is hilarious.. whatever the number great or small its funny how a journalist researches his or her story; gathers the same quotes from whatever data base they use and repeats them again…

    “DNA testing will be done to see if it came from wild or domestic stock.” I have my doubts about this quote…

    If they see dna that is presumably closer related to to the pumas in south America then they will probably say its a pet…

    But if the DNA shows less of whatever markers that they are looking for then…. it would be unconfirmable IMO

    for hunters that have that weird “no regard for other lifeforms trying to making a living” attitude and logic, I wish that Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny were real and twisted up there guns wherever they went

  17. dryfly6 responds:

    Well I feel It is sad a lion had to die in an illegal way. However you must remember that if animals were not taken for science we would not know anything about them. I live in Arizona and we have lions walking in the communities all the time. In fact in some places you can shoot one a day, 365 days a year. Lions are common here. They have to get a territory as an adult to breed, so it would make sense that animals travel to areas that have a no or low population. I’m tired of the skeptics on cryptid. Even the ones that believe still act like they want a “body” to prove anything is possible. I’m an active hunter and had a bigfoot encounter in the past. I believe!

    As far as Game and Fish Agencies go, I have found that places like Florida and Kansas will not admit to Animals like lions and “black cats” because of the politics and money. Ranchers do not want lions and the state will not admit they are there. This makes the state have to pay for the killed cattle if lions are know. Also U.S. Fish and Wildlife will remove funds if species are in an area of a state that they do not aprove of being in that state. It a tangled mess anyway you look at it.

  18. Incorrigible1 responds:

    I’m fairly amazed no one has dredged up the common urban legend that the state’s Game/Parks department is “transplanting” cougars into an area “because of the deer overpopulation.”

    Here in Nebraska, the same fantastic tale has been spread far and wide. I’ve heard the same claptrap from every state into which the cougar has expanded its range.

    I dearly desire to observe a cougar in the wild, and just might have the opportunity. I’ve already decided that if/when that sighting occurs, I’ll just keep it to myself.

  19. crgintx responds:

    Everyone thinks that cougars are some shy retiring creatures which is total bunk. There’s been no less than 3 folks (two were children) killed and partially eaten by cougars in the last 20 years that I can remember. Bears are worse. I’ve found cougar tracks right next to park trails here in Texas because they intend on eating your child, you dog or you. Cougars are some of the stealthiest of all big cats, They can kill prey 3x times there size. The kind of prey that have sharp, pointed antlers to defend themselves with. The guy that shot the cougar got lucky because if he saw the cougar, I’m damn sure the cougar saw him first and was likely stalking him. A lone hunter without a dog or dogs is a serious disadvantage against a cougar in the wilds. We’ve had several dogs killed recently by a cougar in the Lost Pines Forest east of Austin. Even with dogs, they haven’t caught it yet.

  20. John A. Lutz responds:

    What a shame an actual wild puma had to be killed just to prove it exists….yet that is the position game & wildlife officials put hunters & residents in across the eastern states, when such a lion is seen & reported.
    State officials refuse to believe unless a carcass is produce, then charges will be brought upon U for killing this “non-existant animal: Its a catch-22 situation & is why we are convinced east coast wildlife officials already know WILD cougars continue to survive in their states.
    Since 1965, proof of cougars or mountain lions have been CONFIRMED in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachucetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia & Wisconsin.
    That makes 21 of the 26 east of the Mississippi River sttaes now has DOCUMENTED proof of big cats known as cougars, mountain lions, pumas or panthers. Yet NOT 1 state offciial will come out & state those facts publicly.

  21. nytedrgn responds:

    Wow this guy is an idiot….I hunt and fish because over population of any species is a bad thing(look at the human race, our over population is killing everything). I would have retrieved my rifle but I wouldn’t have shot it unless it was an actual threat not perceived threat. And I sure as hell would have reported it if I was defending myself as I’m sure most intelligent people would.

    Situations like this are why I have a digital camera and am looking into a scope camera that allows one to capture a digital image of what is seen through your rifle scope.

    oh and if you want to think I’m a heartless killer because I hunt…ask me about the 12 point buck I saw within 15 feet of my stand and didn’t even touch my gun because it was too beautiful to shoot. lol

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