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Zimmerman speaks on mountain lions

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Posted: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 1:00 am

“Mountain Lions in Indiana? Fact or Fiction.”  

This was the subject of Dean Zimmerman, IDNR Wildlife Biologist’s presentation at the West Lafayette Celery Bog Nature Center’s “Wednesday’s in the Wild.” Zimmerman’s work district encompasses most of West Central Indiana. He has served in this position for 40 years, living in Tippecanoe County during this time.

At the beginning of the discussion — 35 to 40 people attending — Zimmerman stated there are a number of exotic animals reported throughout the year in Indiana. Recently, a porcupine was road-killed in the Mansfield area of Parke County. Other reports, over the past few years, have involved sightings of wolves, wolverines and various big cats.

These reports are generally singular events with no follow-up sightings. Any report of an identified/unidentified exotic animal receives a follow-up investigation. However, if no physical evidence is available — pictures, hair, scat (droppings) or tracks, then the investigation can go no further.

As for mountain lions (cougar, catamount, puma, etc.) most recent sightings — definite I. D. — have been in states west of and adjacent to the Mississippi River. The modern day range of the mountain lion is considered to be the Rocky Mountain range, the Black Hills of South Dakota and Florida. This would mean mountain lions in Iowa and Missouri have moved there from some western site.

When a family group separates, young male mountain lions may travel 100’s of miles before establishing a territory of their own. A food source may keep the animal in one location for a period of time. Mountain lions depend heavily on deer as a primary food. In the central portion of the United States and the midwest, there would be no lack of this preferred food.

Within the past year, a trail camera in Greene County — Bloomfield — captured an image of a mountain lion. In about the same time frame, a lion was reported seen in southern Putnam County. Prior to these reports, a mountain lion escaped from a big cat rescue facility in Clay County. It is possible these incidences were the same cat.

Occasionally there are reports of black panthers. Mountain lions do not exhibit this color variation, although leopards — Indian and African — do, as well as jaguars in Mexico and Central America. Are these just fictional stories? Probably not, some thing resembling a large black cat was seen, but only for a fleeting glimpse.

In 2010, there were 185 reports of mountain lion/cougar sightings in Indiana. Four of these involved pets being attacked and four were of livestock being injured or killed. None were confirmed to be mountain lions as the attacker.

Any sighting of a mountain lion/cougar should be reported to the regional wildlife biologist, State Conservation Officer or County Sheriff's office. In the case of a sighting of any exotic animal, a picture would lend the most credence to the report, although a camera is seldom available. Note the exact location of the animal/sighting and do not disturb this area, allow an experienced individual to determine if tracks are present.

A mountain lion/puma, wolverine, wolf or any exotic animal in Indiana is considered protected from harm. However, it is legal to attempt to kill an exotic animal if it is doing damage to property or an owned animal. Any incidence of this type must be immediately reported and the exotic animal must be given to the IDNR.

The chance of encountering any exotic animal in Indiana is remote. There are a number of exotic animals within the state, held as pets. However, it is required that a license be obtained from IDNR to keep the exotic animal. It is also assumed for every licensed exotic animal, there is one not licensed.


There was a considerable difference between the FLW bass fishing tournament held on Lake Ockeechobee in Florida and the second event staged on Beaver Lake, Rogers, Arkansas. Bass pros fishing the Ockeechobee event weighed in 5 fish limits of 30 pounds and more. On Beaver Lake, this past week, 20 pound totals were not to be had. The weather was comparable to that of West Central Indiana and most anglers were wearing insulated outerwear as well as face protectors.

Shad Schenck, Waynetown had perhaps one of his best beginning days of his 10 year plus years of fishing as a professional bass angler. On Day 1 — Beaver Lake, Schenck’s weighed-in 5 bass limit was 13 pounds, 9 ounces. This weight placed him in fourth place in the field of 156 pros. Day 2 saw another 5 bass limit totaling 14 pounds, 14 ounces and a standing in the No. 1 position.

The third day of competition would see the top 20 pros fishing this part of the four-day tournament. A cold front was approaching, but Schenck was not overly concerned about its effect on the fishing. He had been successful in a deep water pattern, but was not saying how Day 3 would be fished. Day 3 ended with a two-bass catch weighing 2 pounds, 9 ounces and an 11th position placing. Only the top 10 pros would fish Day 4. Schenck missed the 10th place by 5 ounces. His 11th place finish would receive a check for $12,500.

The next FLW event will be on Lake Hartwell, Greenville, South Carolina on March 24-27. 


Don Bickel is a retired forester. His column appears in Tuesday’s Journal Review. He can be e-mailed at

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