This page lists some investigations outside my immediate area that show some aspects of cougar behavior or some pattern to the sightings that I find interesting. This page is not intended to be a summary of the status of cougar dispersal from surrounding states. See my page on history of cougar in Iowa and the Midwest for more on what we know of cougar in some of the surrounding states. The cougar network will also provide information on confirmed cougar throughout the Midwest1.
Moody Country, SD. July 2004 to February 2005. I found the reports of cougar in this area especially interesting because there seemed to be good evidence of cougar in Moody County for about four months and then the sightings seemed to go away suggesting, in my opinion, that cougar had set up a home range for a while and then moved on.. While the Big Sioux River runs through this area, the cougar sightings were not restricted to the wooded corridors. This is similar to a pattern that I have observed in this area of NW Iowa and seems to confirm that some of the cougar seem to stay in the area for a while (set up a home range) and then move on (presumably because they are dispersing males that need a female to set up a permanent territory).
I was alerted to these sightings by an individual who has relation in the area and who pointed me to some articles in the Moody County Enterprise. After reading the articles I talked to Cynthia Sheppard who wrote three articles on the sightings. Based on the number of sightings conservation officers were apparently convinced there was a cougar in the area (Sheppard 2004b) and one sighting was witnessed by three men at about a 100 yards (Sheppard 2004b). Sheppard also told me (phone conversation of June 17th 2005) that she thought there were verified prints but the conservation officer, Doug Day, (phone conservation) told me he had not been called out to verify the prints.
While the reports died down in the area, on July 25th 2005 a lion was again sighted, "in the same vicinity that Bonnie Hemmer reported seeing the large animal this past February" (Sheppard 2005b).
Marcus Iowa (Cherokee County) 1995
The sightings around Marcus are interesting because they tend to support the idea of a cougar (probably a male disperser) hanging around one area for quite a while before it moved on. Since this is a public web page, I have removed the names of some of the individuals. Fuller details are in my original reports.
A. June 19,2005 sighting at 8:15 PM by Rod Klingenberg and family. Report 73
B. May 30 2005 sighting around 6:00 AM in the back yard of an elderly lady. Report 74
C. April 8, 2005 approximately 8:20 AM sighting by two ladies on NW side of track. Report 75
D. In Spring a farmer applying anhydrous ammonia surprised a cougar while in a draw to the east
of the arrow. Report 76
On Tuesday June 21, 2005 the local game warden, John Sells, sent me an e-mail telling me about a sighting that he had been called out on the previous Sunday. This is the sighting (labeled A in above figure) of Rod Klingenberg of a cat walking across the field north of the golf course. John Sells had also been told that this was the third or fourth report close to town. I decided to drive out to Marcus the following day (June 22) to investigate some of the reports in person. In addition to the four sightings highlighted in this report I heard of a number of other (about 3 to 5) sightings or prints in the area, which I have not investigated. One was said to be print evidence confirmed by some DNR official, but these reports should just be considered rumors since the DNR assured me that they had found no scat nor made any cast of prints (e-mail of December 21, 2005 from Ron Andrews) I could find no evidence from the DNR that they had confirmed any prints. While the number of reports in this area is consistent with a cougar in the area, the belief that there is a cougar in the area, lends itself to generating more than the usual number of false reports.
I decided to focus my investigation on the reports of four "cougar sightings" on the south end of Marcus, Iowa. One should be cautious with this evidence since these are visual sightings and about 50% of good visual sightings turn out to be something else. However, without collars on all dispersing cougar and without substrate that consistently leaves good prints, one has to include good visual sightings if one wants to judge where cougar have likely been. However, in this case, some of these reports are pretty strong visual reports. The figure above shows that something was seen in the same area over the space of several months. A simple interpretation is that a cougar had set up a home range that includes the golf course and cemetery on the south end of town, which it visited periodically. The draw across highway 143 (at the letter C in figure above) leads right to the cemetery at the south end of Marcus and downstream becomes a stream that empties into the West Fork of the Little Sioux River. I suspect the cougar sometimes used the draw to visit this area, which is supported by a farmer surprising a cougar in this draw (arrow D in above figure) in the Spring.
Report 73 (A on above figure)
On June 22, 2005 I talked with Rod Klingenberg about the sighting of what he thought was a cougar. He was sitting on his deck (see A on the above map) the previous Sunday evening (June 19, 2005) about 8:15 PM and he saw something in the bean field. The "cat" was moving west to east in the bean field about 40 to 60 rows in from the golf course. His wife, Mitze, grabbed their binoculars and he, Mitzie, and his boys looked at it. He described its color as tawny. They did not see any speckled pattern on the coat. The head was down most of the time. They were impressed with the big muscular shoulders as it walked. His wife had a good look at the head and was absolutely sure it was a cat. It also walked like a cat and not a dog. They watched it for about 3 or 4 minutes as it moved 300 to 400 yards. Rod said they saw a domestic cat about half way across the field and it was clear from the comparison that this cat way too big for a domestic cat. Ben, his son, said it was as wide as the supports for the gas tank (probably about four or five feet). Rod, his wife and Ben are all in substantial agreement on what they saw. I looked through the binoculars and they were decent binoculars (10 by 30 if I remember correctly) which should have given a good enlargement of the creature. The police and John Sells came out that evening and they looked for, but did not find, any prints.
The one weak point of the observation is that no one saw a long tail (although they were looking more at the front end). However, most of the rest of the report is fairly strong. They had a clear unobstructed view of the creature with binoculars. I think we can eliminate house cats and I don't think all of them would have been fooled by a dog. Except for not noticing a tail, much of the rest of their report is consistent with this being a mountain lion. It also fits with other reports of cougar in the same area. I lean toward this being a cougar but we can not eliminate a bobcat (although the lack of spots would not fit - its short tail would be less likely to have been seen). I will rank this one as a 5 (likely) on my reliability scale.
Report 74 (B on above figure)
An elderly lady reported a cougar in her back yard at 6AM on May 30, 2005 (see figure above). She told the mayor, who lives across the road from her, that it had a long tail. Her yard is very close to the cemetery. I got this information both from the city clerk and from Rod who is a neighbor. For now I will classify this as a 4 (below likely) only because I have heard of this second hand. I got the feeling that the people who talked to her tend to think the report was credible.
Report 75 (C on above figure)
I had phone interviews with Mary Beth Bouchard and a friend, who saw what they thought was a cougar on the morning of April 8th 2005 at about 8:20AM. The ladies were walking on the track just south of the school. They were on the NW corner of the track heading west when they saw a mountain lion running east along the outside fence of the cemetery (see figure above). When the cat got to the gate in the middle he turned and entered the cemetery. Mary Beth especially noticed the long tail that was about as long as the body when it turned. When I asked her if it was bushy (she said it was not - although the other lady thought it might be). Both of them have a cat of the right color to be a cougar. Mary Beth had the cat caramel colored and her friend said it was sand tan. Although neither of them have seen cougar both were sure it was cat. Mary Beth said its proportions (longer and not as tall) were cat like. The other lady has cats and was sure it was not a dog. She also said the ears weren't pointed. Both are positive that it was too big to have been a domestic cat. After it disappeared into the cemetery it may have continued south since they heard barking of dogs, which could have been coming from the vet south of the cemetery. They were concerned enough about what they had seen that they reported it to the office of the school
This is, in my opinion, a fairly strong report. They had a clear daylight view of the cat and have the color and tail right. I will classify this as 6 or probable.
Report 76 (D on above figure)
In the Spring (2005) a farmer surprised a cougar in a draw in the middle of the section to the east when he was applying anhydrous ammonia. Since I have not talked to him, I consider this as only possible evidence of a cougar. However, if it is true, it suggests that this cat may be using the draw for movement and or bedding during the day. The draw where the cat was resting connects to the y shaped draw that can be seen on the figure above across the road (Highway 143) from the cemetery. These draws eventually drain into the West Branch of the Little Sioux River.
There were no more sightings after this summer according to local residents, which may indicate that the cougar (if this was a cougar) had moved on.
I interpret the Marcus sightings as evidence of cougar setting up home range in open farm areas. This interpretation is supported by two other examples of local cougar that show evidence of home range. Currently (between February and June of 2005), I 'm aware of four sign (Report 66 , Report 71 and two unwritten reports) of what may be2 a cougar west of Sioux Center, all which are on the watershed of Sixmile Creek. Since both these and the Marcus signs were seen about the same time and at some distance from each other, I suspect there are two different individuals leaving these signs. A second area where a lot of cougar sign was seen is the area between the Floyd River and Highway 75 (reports 28,30,32,34,37, 50 and 60) between December 2003 and October 2004. In this area a cougar left identifiable prints on a farm north of Orange City (Report 30) and another time in this area a cougar was seen by several individuals (Report 50) so some of the evidence for the sign being that of cougar in this area is fairly strong. Since I have not had recent reports in the area, I suspect this cougar has dispersed (moved again) and may well be the cougar leaving sign in the Marcus area or west of Sioux Center.
1 While the confirmations are reliable , the numbers listed may under represent numbers in some states and are not always comparable. See my discussion under the paragraph "Cougar in neighboring states" on my history page.
2 The signs along Sixmile Creek may not all be cougar so evidence for cougar from this area must be treated with caution. On the other hand the evidence for cougar in the second location between the Floyd and Highway 75 is stronger with fairly good print evidence in one case.
Sheppard, C. 2004a. Another sighting of mountain lion reported west of Egan in pasture. July 27th article in Moody County Enterprise. Found in their archives (http://www.moodycountyenterprise.com/search_archives.php) in June 2005.
Sheppard, C. 2004b Reports added of mountain lion sightings. November 23, 2004 article in Moody County Enterprise. Found in their archives (http://www.moodycountyenterprise.com/search_archives.php) in June 2005.
Sheppard, C. 2004c More sightings of lion shared. December 7th article in Moody County Enterprise. Found in their archives (http://www.moodycountyenterprise.com/search_archives.php) in June 2005.
Sheppard, C. 2005a My side of the fence - birth order. February 7th article in Moody County Enterprise. Found in their archives (http://www.moodycountyenterprise.com/search_archives.php) in June 2005.
Sheppard, C. 2005b Lion again sighted in Eagan by deputy. August 3 article in Moody
County Enterprise. Found in their archives (http://www.moodycountyenterprise.com/search_archives.php)
Page created by James Mahaffy in July of 2005
File updated on: January 12, 2007 at 9:54 AM