Mountain Lion Confirmed in Grand Forks County

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The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has confirmed the sighting of a mountain lion in Grand Forks County. While the state has already confirmed six other sightings this year, this mountain lion is of particular interest because it is wearing an active radio-collar, attached by South Dakota State University researchers late last winter in the Black Hills.

The young male mountain lion was observed Sunday evening near Turtle River State Park, about 20 miles west of Grand Forks. Because of its radio-collar, game and fish personnel can keep track of the animal's whereabouts, in cooperation with SDSU. "This is a unique opportunity to learn something about mountain lion movement," said Randy Kreil, game and fish department wildlife division chief. "As long as it's not causing problems we'll continue to monitor it closely."

Jacquie Ermer, department furbearer biologist, said the young male is probably looking for a female companion and a new territory to establish, and most likely won't stay around very long. "I suspect he is going to keep traveling to find a female mate," Ermer said.

The SDSU research project is centered in the Black Hills near Rapid City, where mountain lions are well established, and is investigating juvenile mountain lion dispersal and survival. The Grand Forks County mountain lion's last previous confirmed signal was three months ago in the Slim Buttes area of Harding County in northwestern South Dakota.

Another collared male lion from the SDSU study was killed in Oklahoma, apparently by a train last summer, testament to the long distances these animals will travel to find new, unoccupied home ranges and mates.

Mountain lions are native to North Dakota but disappeared prior to 1900. Infrequent sightings began to occur again in the 1950s. In recent years reported sightings have become more frequent.

This marks the 58th reported mountain lion sighting in North Dakota in 2004, and the seventh to be officially confirmed. Five others were confirmed in western North Dakota and one in the Turtle Mountains in the north central part of the state.

Mountain lions are currently protected in North Dakota unless they are an immediate threat to people or livestock. However, they are considered a furbearer, and the game and fish department could open a season, by governor's proclamation, if it was warranted.