The recent killing of an adult mountain lion in Bourbon County drew statewide attention in a state that has little experience with the largest member of the North American cat family.
The DNA of that 125-pound male is being analyzed by scientists to determine if it came from the wild or if it had been bred and raised in captivity, either in a zoo or by a private collector of exotic animals.
State wildlife officials said it was the first mountain lion reported in Kentucky for more than 20 years. The last was in Western Kentucky.
Animal rights activists have protested the killing of the big cat in a residential area near Paris but the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KFWR) said it had no choice.
Paris is about 55 highway miles northwest of Morehead.
Shane Ratliff, a KFWR conservation officer in Rowan and 12 other counties, said Monday that he is not aware of any confirmed mountain lion sightings in the 8th Wildlife District.
He stated that possession of such animals by private citizens has been illegal in Kentucky for several years.
“I can’t imagine a more dangerous animal to try to keep as a pet,” he said.
Mountain lions have the ability to leap 15 feet up into a tree and sprint up to speeds of 50 miles. They also are known as cougars, pumas, panthers, yellow cats and catamounts.
They once roamed throughout North America but today are seen most frequently in the 12 westernmost states and Florida.
Full grown, the big cats can be 30 inches in height at the shoulder and eight feet long from nose to tail as adults. They can weigh between 75 and 175 pounds.
Mountain lions can survive in a variety of habitats, including high mountains, deserts, and swamps.
According to the National Park Service, human activity has encouraged mountain lions to retreat to rugged terrain that remains largely uninhabited by humans.
Mountain lion habitat must provide an adequate source of prey as well as cover and concealment for hunting.
A mountain lion’s vision is one of its most important tools in hunting. Its large eyes give mountain lions strong night vision to go with extremely sensitive hearing.
Mountain lions, known as ambush hunters, are said to consume 20 to 30 pounds of meat in one meal. They bury the remains of their prey after eating.
Anyone sighting what possibly could be a mountain lion is advised to avoid contact and immediately notify KDFWR through any post of the Kentucky State Police.
Keith Kappes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 784-4116.