October 26, 2014

Update: mountain lion killed in Des Moines neighborhood

Mountain lion shot in the back yard of a Des Moines home. (Photo courtesy of the DNR)

Police shot and killed a mountain lion this morning in Des Moines.

Kevin Baskins, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says it’s extremely unusual for such an animal to end up in a residential neighborhood.

“Certainly, we see the occasional mountain lion wander through the state of Iowa, but to the best of our knowledge, we really have not seen one in urban setting like Des Moines,” Baskins said.

 “The only explanation we can think of is that mountain lions will follow river corridors and the river is in fairly close proximity to where this cat got shot.”

The mountain lion was spotted by a man in the backyard of his home, located on Des Moines’ northeast side, at 9:30 a.m. Around two hours earlier, police had received reports of a mountain lion near an elementary school.

Baskins said officers had little choice but to shoot the animal, given it’s size and the fact that it was in a residential area near two schools. But, he notes mountain lions aren’t considered a great threat to humans.

“Mountain lions generally tend to avoid people as much as possible,” Baskins said. “In Iowa, we’ve yet to have a documented case of a mountain lion attack on a human.”

The young male cat shot in Des Moines measured six feet, three inches from nose to tail and weighed over 70 pounds. “A full grown male mountain lion can weigh 140 to 160 pounds, so this one may have had his full height, but probably still had some room to grow,” Baskins said.

Mountain lions are no stranger to rural areas of Iowa as they’re pushed out of the Black Hills or mountainous regions to the west. A mountain lion can move several hundred miles in just a few days.

The lion shot in Des Moines is now being examined by the DNR. “One of the things we look at when we get an animal like this is the stomach contents to see what kind of diet it had just prior to being killed,” Baskins said. “I know in the past, it’s been mostly rabbits, mice and squirrels.”