Several reports of mountain lion sightings in central Iowa are now believed to have been caused by the presence of a much smaller cat.
Sergeant Jason Halifax of the Des Moines Police Department says officers recently received calls about a possible mountain lion — as did several other agencies.
“Apparently Polk County has had some calls, Polk County Animal Control, Animal Rescue League of Iowa, our chief humane officer Jim Butler, Altoona police, have all had calls on this supposed mountain lion,” Halifax says.
The sightings were in eastern Polk County near Altoona, and one caused students at an elementary school to be kept inside.
Halifax says officers were not able to see the mountain lion, and he says the ground has been so dry and hard that they weren’t able to find any tracks either. But, a resident did shoot a picture of an animal.
“Sergeant Butler spoke with this resident and obtained a copy of the picture, did show it to Iowa DNR officials and others,” Halifax explains. He says everyone confirmed that the animal in the picture is a bobcat.
The DNR says the bobcat poses no danger to humans and the animal was likely out hunting small game. Halifax says it’s understandable that area residents might be a little more sensitive after a larger cat was shot in a Des Moines residential area last October.
“Certainly having the mountain lion that was shot within the city limits about a year ago certainly does heighten everyone’s awareness. It tends to make people a little more nervous when they see cats like that that they are not typically used to seeing,” Halifax says.
The mountain lion was stuffed and displayed at the Iowa State Fair this year. It is not being displayed at the Des Moines Police Museum. Halifax says wild animals are generally scared of people and will run away. He says it is okay to report an animal if it is acting in an unusual way.
“When it is acting strange, foaming at the mouth, looks sick, acts sick, by all means, call the police department and we will send officers or animal control officers to try and deal with that animal,” Halifax says. The bobcat population has rebounded in Iowa and there is now a hunting season on the animals.
Photos courtesy of the Des Moines Police Department.