An officer shot and killed a mountain lion on a Bourbon County farm on Monday, marking the first sighting of a mountain lion in the state in over a century, said a spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Mark Marraccini told WBIR that a farmer spotted the rare cat and contacted the department. When the officer arrived, he had to make a critical decision on what do about the large mountain lion. He decided to “dispatch it.”
Marraccini said that the officer shot the mountain lion because it was getting late and he feared that the animal would break free and potentially threaten human lives in the nearby city of Paris.
Amy Rodrigues, staff biologist for the Mountain Lion Foundation, disagrees with the killing.
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“If you’re a deer, they’re a little dangerous,” Rodrigues said. “If you’re human, not so much.
“Attacks on people are not that common. There have only been 22 deaths in the last 120 years.”
Marraccini believes the officer made the right call.
“If that cat had left that tree, it would have disappeared into the brush, and it was a fairly populated area,” he said. Marraccini added that calling in a veterinarian to tranquilize the animal would have taken several hours.
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Also known as cougars, panthers, pumas and catamounts, mountain lions are, on average, about 8 feet long and can weigh up to 180 pounds. They are considered to be exceptional predators because no other species feed on them.
Mountain lions were thought to be killed off more than century ago in Kentucky. According to The Cougar Network, they are confined mostly to the West, but it appears the cats are advancing back East.
Rodrigues said that the animals have colonized in South Dakota, Missouri and Nebraska. She added that there have been sightings in Indiana and downtown Chicago in recent years.
Marraccini does not believe that Kentucky will allow the mountain lions to colonize in there once-native land.
“When you have a population essentially that has had generations and generations and generations that have not had top-line predators, you think about,” he said. “[Are] you going to let your kids wait for the school bus in the dark?"
“From a wildlife diversity perspective, it would be a neat thing," he added. "But from a social aspect, probably not.”