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DNR Confirms Des Moines Mountain Lion Sighting, Public Urged to be Cautious

DES MOINES, Iowa – Des Moines police say they are investigating after a mountain lion was spotted in the city.

Police received surveillance video taken in the area of 31st Street and I-235 overnight that shows a large animal near the stairs leading into a home. Vince Evelsizer, the furbearer biologist with the Iowa DNR, confirms to Channel 13 that the animal in the video is a mountain lion.

Thursday morning, police released the video and warned the public in the area to exercise an abundance of caution with children and animals.

The DNR understands the public’s concern and will continue to monitor the situation surrounding the Des Moines mountain lion, but has no plans to eliminate it unless something changes and becomes dangerous.

“It’s not in town hunting people,” says Evelsizer, “We would like to give it a chance to leave town.”

Evelsizer says the mountain lion spotted in Des Moines likely made its way to Iowa from a western state. After viewing images of the big cat, Evelsizer wasn’t able to determine its gender but says it looks healthy.

Mountain lions are native to Iowa but were wiped out in the 1880s as farmers feared the predators would kill livestock.

The DNR says since 1995, there have been 25 confirmed mountain lions in the state. Of those, five were shot and killed and two were hit by cars.

Sub-adult males are more likely to wander into Iowa from the west, looking for food or females.

Evelsizer says the first female mountain lions were confirmed in Iowa in 2017 when two were spotted. One of those was shot and killed by a hunter in Plymouth County, not far from the Nebraska border. It had been part of a Nebraska study on mountain lions and had a GPS tracker.

The DNR says it has no plans to reintroduce mountain lions to the state and doesn’t know the origin of rumors that it has been bringing the big cats into Iowa for years.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources offers these tips if you encounter a mountain lion.

  1. DON’T RUN! Running will stimulate certain animals to chase you (like a dog that wants to bite you, especially if you run ).
  2. Stand tall, look big, puff up, and lift your coat over your shoulders.
  3. Take control of the situation. Scream loudly, throw objects.
  4. Gather children in close and slowly back away keeping your eye on the animal.
  5. If attacked, fight back vigorously with sharp objects and poke the eyes of the animal.
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