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Nebraska Game and Parks explains investigative process for mountain lion reports

KETV Omaha logo KETV Omaha 7/30/2022
mountain lion investigation © KETV mountain lion investigation

Cellphone video captured an animal, creeping through a field across from a Wahoo home.

The couple who spotted the creature suspected it was a mountain lion, and the video made its way to Game and Parks for an investigation.

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Sam Wilson is a carnivore biologist who's worked for Game and Parks for 18 years.

"As a scientific agency, we require evidence to confirm a mountain lion," Wilson said.

Wilson's official title is furbearer and carnivore program manager. He and a mountain lion response team investigate these reports.

Wilson said they first reviewed the video sent in from Wahoo.

"We're looking for features that mountain lions have, for instance, they have a black spot at the tip of the tail. They have a long, thick, ropey 'J' shaped tail that curves up so it doesn't drag on the ground," Wilson said. "And they also have black spots on the back of the ears and black markings on the face and the tan body."

Wilson said they did not see the black spots or the 'J' shaped tail in the Wahoo video, but the animal did have the tan coloration.

They decided to go out in person to meet with the observers and look for things like tracks or droppings.

Wilson said Game and Parks can also use carboard cutouts of a mountain lion and a bobcat as size comparison to the animal in question.

"We put it in exactly the same spot that their video was taken," Wilson said of the cutouts, "And our mountain lion cutout is there, and it's exactly sized as a mountain lion. And we match the video and the photo that we take from the investigation. We can determine size."

Wilson said that based on that comparison, they determined the animal was not a mountain lion.

In the same week, though, another video from Lincoln also landed in the Game and Parks office, and officials did confirm the animal to be a mountain lion.

Wilson said they could see the physical markers, the correct size and the animal wore a GPS collar.

"We actually had a GPS location outside of the city, so we knew it was somewhat in the area," Wilson said.

Wilson noted mountain lions are always in Nebraska, with three populations around the state.

He said they'll typically run away from humans.

That being said, Wilson does appreciate tips from the public. He said they've learned a lot from such calls.

"We use that information in trying to determine if their populations are spreading and where mountain lions are in the state," he said.

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