Mountain Lion tales persist in Arkansas


Mar 11, 2001
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Outdoors: Mountain lion tales are persistent in Arkansas

BY Joe Mosby, The

Sunday, June 24, 2001

Tell an Arkansan living in a rural area that we don't have mountain lions, and you're apt to have a fierce dispute on your hand, if not an invitation to vacate the premises or a similar suggestion.

Let the doubter ask, "Have you ever seen a mountain lion around here," and the answer almost invariably is along the lines of "No, but my brother-in-law's cousin's uncle met up with one while walking to his deer stand a few years ago."

Panther, cougar, mountain lion, puma, catamount, painter -- by any name you use in the Conway area for large, tawny, long-tailed cats, they are the basis of countless legends, tales, misconceptions and uneasiness down through the years.

Officially, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has ignored the native wild mountain lion for years except to list the "Florida panther" among endangered species protected in the state.

But AGFC wildlife officers have spent numerous hours answering reports of large cats in the wild. None have been verified.

Thursday in their meeting at Pine Bluff, the AGFC commissioners heard wildlife management chief Donny Harris recommend removing the Florida panther from protected species in the state.

Harris said, "Neither the Florida panther nor the eastern cougar exist in Arkansas. The big cats that are occasionally reported are released or escaped mountain lions, western cougars. I believe we've got them in Arkansas, and some may be reproducing (in the wild). We need to relax our regulations so livestock owners can deal with the problems they may have.

Harris said, "Some killings of livestock attributed to bears may be these escaped or released cougars. It's tough to get a census on them. They don't leave tracks on rocky ground."

Formal action will come at the agency's July meeting in Little Rock following a required 30-day public notice period.

To the average Arkansan, it's not a critical point whether a big cat in the woods is native to the state or a released or escaped pet, if captive cougars can be called pets. The critter is big, dangerous, and it's out there, this average citizen will conclude. Come do something about it.

And expanding on this point, what if a male escaped or released cougar meets up with a female escaped or released cougar. They mate and produce young 'uns. Are these offspring native wild animals? Scientifically, probably not, but realistically and practically, they are out there in the woods and scary to many folks.

In a companion regulation Harris presented the commissioners is one continuing a requirement for obtaining permits from the AGFC for animals "legally obtained and accompanied by verification and in accordance with U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations." Notification to the AGFC has to be within 48 hours of obtaining the big cat.

No wild cougars in Arkansas?

A dozen years ago, the AGFC hired a renowned mountain lion hunter from Texas, who had a passel of experience hounds. For parts of four years, the hunter combed the state, searching areas where reports of sightings had been received.

His findings? Nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch. No wild mountain lions. No escaped mountain lions. Nothing.

In the 1980s, this writer visited the late Floyd Jones, a professional trapper, outdoorsman and all-round interesting character who lived in a remote area of Montgomery County, south of Mount Ida. He kept a few cougars, legally obtained, the western subspecies.

Jones said, "When one of my females (cougars) comes in season, you can hear a cat out there in the woods yowling." He went on to say the yowler could be a native cat or could be an escaped or released one. He had no firm conclusion on this point, and he said none of his cats had escaped.

In documentation submitted to the commissioners, Harris' Wildlife Division report said, "The Florida panthers, Puma concolor coryi, were historically present throughout Arkansas but were extirpated (wiped out) by about 1920. From 1927 to 1929, the AGFC offered bounties and hired several trappers as part of a predator control program. Although an intense effort resulted in the removal of at least 255 wolves and 523 bobcats, no mountain lions were taken.

"The elimination of the Florida panther throughout its range in the Southeast was complete except in southern Florida."

The report lists killings of mountain lions "of unknown subspecies" in Montgomery County in 1949, Ashley County in 1969 and Logan County in 1975. The last one listed was shot by a man who claimed the big cat was trying to attack him in the woods.

The rules may change, but someone will hear a hair-raising scream from the woods tomorrow night, or one night next week or next month, and a new panther story will come forth.


Jun 6, 2001
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I have been told several times by hunters that they have heard Mountain Lions, It will "Definately" get your attention when you are in the woods and it is nighttime  :eek:)
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