Nebraska Mountain Lion Kitten Carcass Found
The carcass of a mountain lion kitten has been recovered in the northern Panhandle and is evidence that the species might be reproducing in the state, according to Sam Wilson, furbearer program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
The road-killed female was recovered about 10 miles east of Chadron along U.S. Highway 20 near the Dawes-Sheridan county line. Conservation Officer Walt Meyer recovered the 26.3-pound, 49-inch long (from nose to tail) cat on Feb. 28. Biologists believe the mountain lion was less than 6 months old.
"The young mountain lion is significant in that it is the first confirmation of a mountain lion kitten and the first evidence of reproduction in Nebraska in modern times," Wilson said. The confirmation also is only the second female mountain lion documented in Nebraska; a hunter near the South Dakota border killed the first female in Sioux County in 1991. The first confirmed modern sighting of a mountain lion in Nebraska was in September 1991 in Dawes County. All of the other mountain lion confirmations with a known age and gender have been dispersing young males.
"The average home range for a female mountain lion is 100-200 square miles, so it is possible that the kitten was born in South Dakota and traveled to Nebraska with its mother," Wilson said. "However, due to the age of the kitten and the restricted movement of female mountain lions with kittens, I think it is likely the kitten was born in Nebraska."
The most recent confirmation of a mountain lion in Nebraska was the discovery of tracks in Sheridan County -- also in the northern Panhandle -- last December.
"We suspected that if reproduction was to begin in Nebraska at some point, it would likely start in that part of the state, because that vicinity is closer to their breeding populations in South Dakota and Wyoming," according to Jim Douglas, Commission wildlife division administrator. "It does not necessarily mean we will find evidence of reproduction in other parts of the state any time soon."
For more information on mountain lions in Nebraska, go to the Commission web site at www.OutdoorNebraska.org, click on Wildlife, then Wildlife Species.