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Iowa conservation officer shot mountain lion Friday to protect children

ROCK VALLEY – A large male mountain lion was shot and killed late Friday afternoon in a wooded area near the Rock River  approximately four miles south of Rock Valley in Sioux County.
The mountain lion was first spotted by a hunter checking his trail camera Thursday evening. When the cat, sitting about 40 yards away did not move, the man slowly backed away and called a neighbor. Returning to the spot, the mountain lion was still in the same place, but walked away from a buck it had recently killed. The men then called Conservation Officer John Sells.

Sells checked the area on Friday afternoon and was able to verify the lion from paw prints and photos on the trail camera. The cat was hidden in the area and did not move until the other man nearly stepped on it.

Both Sells and the other man then shot and killed the mountain lion.

“This was definitely something I did not want to do, but this cat was within just a couple of hundred yards of a house with small children who often play in the woods exactly where the lion was,” said Sells.

Sells said the decision to shoot the lion was based on its proximity to houses, approximately eight within a mile, and the fact that the cat was not exhibiting normal behavior of trying to avoid humans.

Within a minute of having shot the lion, Sells said a school bus come down the gravel road and dropped off kids at the nearby house.  The children all began sledding in an open area right next to the kill site and would have been playing less than 200 yards from where lion had been.

“It is unfortunate that the lion had to be killed, but given the obvious public safety concern there was really no alternative.  Our primary concern is the protection of human life in this case,” said Sells.

The mountain lion was a larger animal than other cats that have been killed or spotted in Iowa, weighing an estimated 160 to 180 pounds. The cat did not have any tattoos or any other signs of having been raised in captivity. Tissue samples were taken to have DNA analysis done to try and determine where the mountain lion originated. Most mountain lions that have been spotted in Iowa are believed to have been males driven from their territories in western states.

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