Recent reports of a mountain lion sighting near Le Mars had police, animal control, Department of Natural Resource officials, and many concerned residents, hunters, and property owners on the look-out for the sizable, dangerous, carnivorous wildcat.
Although it has been a while, mountain lion sightings and/or encounters are frequently reported throughout the year throughout the country. South Dakota has even initiated hunting seasons for mountain lions (AKA cougars, pumas, and downright scary *%+^'s!).
And just last week a mountain lion was shot and killed by police while sitting in a tree in a resident's back yard in Rapid City, S.D.
Too often, hikers, joggers, bikers, domestic pets and livestock become victims of mountain lions - especially in the mountainous areas of California and other Western states where such folks have been maimed or killed by wildcat attacks in the wild.
Due to reports of Midwest sightings of species of wildcats, including mountain lions and bobcats, not normally native to this area, but which appear to be re-populating regularly, a few pointers for safety should be observed. These were forwarded to us some time ago by a concerned citizen.
(1) When walking, jogging, or bicycling, small bells should be attached to shoelaces or clothing. This prevents humans from startling animals by making noise that warns the animal that humans are approaching, giving them time to move away. These wild animals prefer to avoid contact with humans when possible.
(2) It is wise to carry a can of pepper spray when in areas where these animals may be present. In case of close contact, the spray can be used to ward off an attack.
(3) Perhaps the most important point is to know what kind of cat is in the area. A good way to do this is to observe the droppings found along trails. Bobcat droppings will be small and contain small rodent fur and bones. Mountain Lion droppings will be larger and contain small bells and smell like pepper spray.
Seriously, be careful out there. You just never know.