SPRINGFIELD – Last week’s sighting of a puma in Springfield could indicate it has become a normal presence along the Missouri River, authorities say.
Bon Homme County Sheriff Mark Maggs posted the Springfield sighting on his Facebook page. The post included a photo showing the fat cat strolling down a lighted street.
Maggs could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. But, he posted on Facebook that area residents should stay aware of the puma’s presence.
“It’s likely he’s just passing through, and we won’t see him again,” the sheriff said, referring to the fat cat. “However, he could be a resident lion in a way. He seemed very comfortable under the streetlights and could come to town to hunt stray cats at night. Until we get that out of the way, I encourage everyone. world to keep their small pets and children indoors after dark or to accompany them outside when they need it. “
Maggs has not released any follow-up reports on the mountain lion or if there is more than one in the area. He urged residents to stay calm.
“Lions, for the most part, are afraid of humans and avoid contact with us, which is why they are rarely seen,” he said. “If you spot him, please call my office immediately at 605-589-3942 and we will put in place the appropriate resources to deal with him. “
Downstream along the Missouri River, Yankton County Sheriff Jim Vlahakis and Cedar County (Nebraska) Sheriff Larry Koranda have not received any recent reports of cougars.
However, both sheriffs said on Tuesday those reports were more likely to be received by conservation officers than their departments.
Cougars have been spotted in recent years along the bottom of the Missouri River and even within the city limits of Yankton. Big cats are normally found in western South Dakota, but conservation officials said the felines may be looking for a new home and have found the Yankton area to their liking. In particular, the land along the Missouri River has similarities to their old homes and offers what they are looking for.
Maggs agreed, noting that the mountain lions could be forced out of their traditional habitat and are willing to travel several hundred miles for more space with fewer people.
“There have been a lot of confirmed sightings of cougars along the Missouri River in Bon Homme and Yankton counties in recent years,” he said. “My opinion is that we will continue to see more and more of them in our part of the state as the population continues to explode in the Black Hills.”
In neighboring Nebraska, pumas have made their presence known more and more in recent years, according to Sam Wilson of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC).
Wilson works as the NGPC program manager for furry animals / carnivores.
Mountain lions were originally from Nebraska but were wiped out in the 1890s, he said in a press release. However, they returned to Husker State about three decades ago.
Nebraska’s first modern confirmation was made in 1991, Wilson said. Mountain lions were protected as game by law in 1995, and laws allowing hunting were created in 2012. There are currently breeding populations in three areas of the state: Pine Ridge, Niobrara River Valley and Wildcat Hills.
“A few other animals usually roam elsewhere in the state as well,” he said.
Mountain lions vary in size and weight, Wilson noted, with males typically weighing between 100 and 170 pounds and females weighing between 60 and 100 pounds. Mountain lions are usually evenly tanned in color with a black tipped tail and dark fur on the back of the ears. Juveniles have dark markings and black-rimmed tails until they are about 1 year old.
“Mountain lions are found in a variety of habitats, but prefer rougher, forested areas,” he said. “Stalking cover and prey abundance are probably the most essential components of mountain lion habitat.”
Big cats show certain hunting behaviors and preferences, Wilson said.
“Mountain lions are most active from dusk to dawn, but also move during the day. Deer are the prey of choice, but mountain lions will also prey on elk, bighorn sheep, small game, porcupines and a variety of other species, ”he said.
“After killing their prey, pumas often drag or carry the carcass under a bush or tree. After being fed, the carcass is often covered with litter to avoid detection by scavengers.
Mountain lions are typically identified by photos, tracks and droppings from surveillance cameras, Wilson said. They are known to travel long distances.
“Nebraska mountain lions are part of the larger population that spans all of the western states, and the animals roam freely between Nebraska and neighboring states, particularly South Dakota and Wyoming,” he said. he declared.
People encountering mountain lions should take certain precautions, according to Emmett Keyser, regional supervisor for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
Keyser offered his advice during a KELO-TV report on a recent sighting of a mountain lion in Brookings. If a person is surprised by an encounter with a big cat, keep your distance and don’t run, he advised.
“Hold your position. Back up slowly. Try to get tall. Often times if you are wearing a coat you can put that coat on your head and make yourself look taller, ”he said.
“A lot of times we hear people talking to pumas in soft, calm voices, but backing up slowly is a good idea.”
In addition, Keyser stressed the need to report a sighting to conservation officials or law enforcement so they can take action and alert the general public.
In response to the Springfield Mountain Lion sighting, Maggs offers the same advice.
“Use common sense, have no fear, be aware of your surroundings and you will be fine,” he said.
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