The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism on Thursday evening reported that game wardens had confirmed a mountain lion sighting in Rooks County, located just north of Hays in north-central Kansas.
The female cougar was found dead by a group of upland bird hunters, according to a Facebook post from the wildlife agency. The post said the group of hunters immediately contacted a local game warden after discovering the carcass of the big cat and the incident is still under investigation.
The sighting marks the first confirmed mountain lion spotting in Kansas since 2016, according to research database Cougarnet.org, though there have been many unconfirmed reports. A string of cougar sightings were confirmed in 2016, including one in southwest Shawnee County on Nov. 20 caught on a trail camera by Rene Tinajero. Based on other sightings in the region at that time, it is probable that the big cat was moving eastward through the state toward the Kansas-Missouri state line and didn’t establish permanent residence in Shawnee County.
Prior to that sighting, a cougar — thought to be the same one — was spotted on Nov. 9, 2016, in Geary County to the west of Topeka. A cougar was again spotted after the Shawnee County sighting on Nov. 24, 2016, in Wabaunsee County to the east — cornered in a tree by raccoon hunters in what made for a dramatic YouTube video.
Rooks County also had a confirmed cougar sighting on Aug. 3, 2015, when a photo was taken of a big cat in that area.
This marks Kansas’ 21st confirmed mountain lion sighting since 1990, though there were no confirmed sightings between 1990 and 2005.
Mountains lions that wander into this part of the state are believed to have come from the Black Hills, the Badlands or northwestern Nebraska, though Colorado also is in their native habitat range.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates throughout the day at CJOnline.com.