A group of mountain lion lovers is asking state officials to make mountain lions a protected species. Ron Andrews of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says if that happens, no one could legally kill a mountain lion in Iowa. “It may be a bit premature to do that because at this point it would appear that these mountain lions are in a transition stage,” he says. “There (are) no females that have shown up yet.” Andrews says an alternative to declaring the mountain lion an endangered species might be to simply list the mountain lion in Iowa law as one of the species that’s living in the state. That would give state officials the option of barring “indiscriminate killing” of mountain lions if the lions get scarce. “It would also allow…people the freedom if they were concerned about livestock or even concerned about their own well-being, they could technically shoot that animal and just notify (state officials) so we could obtain the carcas for scientific evidence,” Andrews says. Three dead mountain lions have been discovered in Iowa recently, according to Andrews. He says one was “road kill” and the other two were shot. Andrews, who is considered the D-N-R’s expert on mountain lions, says there’s been one “legitimate photo of a mountain lion” taken with a motion-sensitive camera and about a half-dozen tracks have been found in the state. “There are a number of these animals in captivity and occasionally the people just get fed up with (the mountain lion), they turn them loose or (the animals) escape,” Andrews says. “They have them as pets, believe it or not.” The mountain lion is a predator that was native to Iowa before Europeans settled here and while it can attack farm livestock, it also helps thin the deer population, according to Andrews. He says state officials have not been able to link any recent livestock deaths with mountain lions. So what should you do if you come across a mountain lion? “Act like you’re the boss of the situation. You become the dominant person there. You look big. You scream. You holler. You don’t take off running. Again, you’re the one in charge there, not that mountain lion, and chances are the mountain lion will disappear into the woods,” Andrews says. “In most instances, the mountain lion’s going to know you’re there before you know that they’re there. The mountain lion will just vaporize. You’ll never even know it was present.” Andrews guesses there are about 10 mountain lions living in Iowa today, half of which he thinks were once someone’s pet. The Natural Resource Commission will consider putting the mountain lion on the endangered species list at its meeting in Storm Lake next week. Andrews says mountain lion sightings have turned into a political hot-potato. “The DNR is accused, you know, of bringing these mountain lions in (to the state). We did not do that,” he says “That’s pretty absurd that people even think that in this day and age.”