Conservation officers from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Clinton police officers were unable to locate a mountain lion Saturday near Ashford University in Clinton.
Officers responded around 12:30 p.m. Saturday when a 911 call was placed by a citizen after reportedly spotting a mountain lion approximately half a mile from the university where a commencement ceremony was about to take place.
According to a press release from the Clinton Police Department, officers responded to the 2000 block of South 19th Street to a reported sighting of a possible mountain lion. A Clinton police officer and a Clinton County sheriff’s deputy responded to the area and observed, from a distance, what appeared to be a large cat-like animal walking along the railroad tracks, the release said.
Authorities last saw the animal running into a wooded area. Law enforcement from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and United States Fish and Wildlife responded to the area and attempted to locate the animal. Officers were not able to locate the animal and were not able to confirm the animal observed was a mountain lion.
“We had a number of officers looking for the cat but were unable to verify it,” said Shawn Meier, DNR law enforcement supervisor.
Meier said the area where the mountain lion was believed to be seen was a rocky area and no prints or other signs of a mountain lion could be found.
An image captured on a trail camera in Clinton County late last month was confirmed as a mountain lion by wildlife biologists and law enforcement officer from the DNR.
The photo from late September was taken from a wooded area along the Wapsipinicon River in the eastern part of Clinton County.
DNR conservation officers were able to confirm the location where the photo was taken by matching the surrounding landscape to what is shown in the photo.
DNR biologists believe the mountain lion in Clinton County is likely a young male that has been pushed from its native area by older, dominant males.
The lion likely came from a state west of Iowa and the fact that is already on Iowa’s far eastern border suggests that it will likely continue to wander.
Mountain lions have the ability to move several hundred miles in a short period of time, said Evelsizer.
In the past 150 years, only 19 U.S. human fatalities have occurred from mountain lion attacks. Fortunately, none have occurred in Iowa. Generally a mountain lion will sense human presence before humans know they are in the area and the mountain lions will quickly vacate the area.
However, if one has an unexpected rare encounter with a mountain lion the following is recommended:
Don’t run. Running will stimulate certain animals to chase you (like a dog that wants to bite you, especially if you run).
Stand tall, look big, puff up, lift your coat over your shoulders.
Take control of the situation. Scream loudly, throw objects.
Gather children in close and slowly back away keeping your eye on the animal.
If attacked, fight back vigorously with sharp objects and poke the eyes of the animal.
Meier said sightings of a mountain lion can be reported to local law enforcement or to DNR conservation officers.
For more information, contact Iowa DNR Conservation Officers Shawn Meier at 319-653-1637 or Luke Webinger at 563-357-1078.