Officials still investigating mountain lion shot in Kentucky
A wildlife expert suspects that the mountain lion shot by a fish and game officer in Central Kentucky last year was a wild animal — not someone’s escaped pet, as Kentucky officials initially suggested.
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources officials must certainly know the truth by now, because it does not take eight months to complete genetic testing, said ecologist Michelle LaRue, executive director of the Cougar Network.
But the state agency has for the third time rejected a request from The Courier-Journal under the Kentucky Open Records Law for a copy of the big cat’s necropsy and genetic testing. Those documents, said agency General Counsel David B. Wicker, are part of an “ongoing investigation,” and because of that, their disclosure is not required.
The Cougar Network is a nonprofit research organization that studies cougar-habitat relationships and the role of cougars in ecosystems. It is especially focused on how mountain lion populations are expanding into their former habitats.
There were three more confirmations recently, two in Wisconsin and one in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, LaRue said.
She said she would not be surprised if the Kentucky mountain lion, the first confirmed in the state in more than a century, was a wild animal that wandered into the state. Increasingly, mountain lions are making their way back home to other corners of the Midwest, she said.
State officials early on speculated that the mountain lion shot and killed in Bourbon County in December by a fish and game officer might have escaped from a private home or facility, suggesting it might have been in too healthy for a wild animal. They said the DNA testing to confirm the animal’s origin would take a few weeks.
Keeping mountain lions as pets in Kentucky is illegal, and state officials list them as “inherently dangerous wildlife.”
LaRue said she has been asking around for details, too, and has also come up with nothing. Her network, however, lists the mountain lion on a its map of confirmed sightings as number 612.
An increasing number of big cat reports in the state coincides with the return of the bobcat to Kentucky’s landscape, the Kentucky department writes on its website. “Bobcats, which were considered rare as late as 1974, have increased in range and abundance throughout Kentucky. They are now found in every county in the state.”
By James Bruggers