Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 26th, 2008
WHAT: “Lions in Iowa” traveling exhibit grand opening and celebration.
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday, July 26.
WHERE: Swiss Valley Nature Center, 13606 Swiss Valley Road, Dubuque, Iowa.
COST: The event is free and open to the public.
Ron Andrews, Iowa’s foremost expert on mountain lions, will help celebrate the grand opening of the “Lions in Iowa” traveling exhibit on Saturday, July 26, at the Swiss Valley Nature Center.
The exhibit, on display through Sept. 15, addresses myths about mountain lions, also known as cougars, and provides details about their natural history through interactive, hands-on experiences. Andrews, a furbearer biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, will speak and answer questions.
Rumors from all corners of Iowa persist that mountain lions are everywhere. Andrews said there might be a few out there, but very few compared to all the rumors. DNR officials often refer to the persistent rumors as “mountain lion hysteria.”
Iowa has nine confirmed mountain lion sightings since 2001. Three mountain lions have been killed since 2000, all on the western side of the state.
Mountain lions can weigh between 100 and 135 pounds and generally feed on rodents and deer. They can travel up to 70 miles per day. The generally reclusive animals were hunted to near extinction in most of the Midwest by the early 1900s. Populations of mountain lions managed to survive over the years in remote, mountainous areas in the West, but there’s nothing verifiable to suggest they’ve lived in significant numbers in the Midwest over the years, except in South Dakota’s Black Hills mountain range.
Kurt Kramer, a park ranger with the Dubuque County park system, suspects some free-ranging mountain lions might have once been “pets” that their former owners couldn’t care for properly and were “released.”
Sightings of the big, long-tailed cats are numerous — and notoriously unreliable. Iowa DNR employees and officials constantly get pictures of things people think are mountain lions, and they turn out to be domestic cats and golden retrievers. Others might confuse bobcats — far more common in the Midwest — with mountain lions.