By MIKE CORN
There's been a third confirmed sighting of a mountain lion in Kansas, and that's prompting a discussion at the upcoming meeting of the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission in Herington.
The discussion also stems from legislative efforts this year to make it legal to kill mountain lions and wolves on sight, allowing landowners to keep the pelts. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks objected to the bill, reminding legislators that it's not against the law to kill lions -- and other animals -- in defense of property, but they can't keep the bounty of the kill.
The discovery of the third cat in the state is coincidental, and provides a springboard for discussion of the issue, according to KDWP furbearer biologist Matt Peek.
In October, an archery hunter northwest of WaKeeney photographed a mountain lion as it approached his tree stand overlooking a massive pile of corn. The Trego County sighting was the second since 1904, when the last lion was killed in Ellis County, near Victoria.
One other cat was shot and killed in 2007 in Barber County.
Peek plans to discuss in detail the latest cat discovery when the wildlife commission meets at 1:30 p.m. June 24 in the community building in Herington.
While the mountain lion sighting will draw plenty of attention, there's one other agenda item that could raise a great deal of apprehension.
That apprehension will come during a discussion about the closing date of pheasant season.
KDWP information chief Mike Miller said the agenda item is in response to a request from an earlier meeting when a hunter asked the commission to consider the idea of extending the pheasant season into February, when few seasons are open and there's little to do.
"The commission is pretty gun shy about changing pheasant season dates," Miller said.
Just this past year, the state's pheasant season returned to its long-term normal of opening on the second Saturday in November. Hoping to boost participation, the season had been moved a week earlier -- much to the chagrin of hunters.
As for the lion, Miller said it was a tagged animal out of Colorado, and its short travels in Kansas -- ultimately into Oklahoma and Texas -- could be traced by GPS.
"They did learn some neat stuff," he said.
Despite the openness of some western counties, Colorado wildlife officials were able to track where the animal stayed, in shelter belts and abandoned farmhouses.
Wildlife officials also found the remains of what the lion dined on, including porcupines.
"They're one of the few animals that can do that," he said.