Credit: Idaho Dept. Fish and Game
POCATELLO, Idaho -- Last week a young male mountain lion was legally “harvested” in southeastern Idaho, roughly eight miles outside of Preston. While it is not unusual for mountain lions to be hunted (they are classified as big game in the state), this particular mountain lion had a very unusual deformity—fully-formed teeth and what appear to be small whiskers growing out of a hard fur-covered mass on the left side of the animal’s forehead.
In response to public interest in the animal, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game today released the following information in a press release:
● On December 30, 2015, the mountain lion was observed attacking a dog on a landowner’s property in the rural Weston area. The mountain lion ran off and its tracks were followed through other properties and eventually to a place where the cat had retreated to the hills. Within three hours of the attack, the hunter began tracking the mountain lion with the use of hounds and harvested the cat legally that same day. The dog involved in the attack survived.
● Idaho Fish and Game cannot definitively explain why this abnormality developed on this mountain lion. It is possible that the teeth could be the remnants of a conjoined twin that died in the womb and was absorbed into the other fetus. It is also possible that deformity was a teratoma tumor. These kinds of tumors are composed of tissue from which teeth, hair, and even fingers and toes can develop. They are rare in humans and animals. Biologists from the southeast region of Idaho Fish and Game have never seen anything like this particular deformity before.
● As required by law, the hunter reported the harvest of the mountain lion to Fish and Game, and a conservation officer checked the mountain lion-- a process that includes verifying the hunter has a valid hunting license and tag, recording information about the harvest location and method of take, recording information about the animal itself, and pulling a tooth for age analysis. The hunter is not required to turn the animal over to Fish and Game for further analysis.
● Mountain lions are common in Idaho and a native game species. Because of their elusiveness and wariness, human encounters with mountain lions are rare. During the winter, deer , turkeys, and other prey species move to lower elevations to escape colder temperatures and deeper snow, often gathering where urban or rural communities interface with the surrounding wildlands. These prey species attract predators like mountain lions. When that happens, conflicts with people, livestock, and pets can occasionally occur.
● Mountain lions can be legally hunted in Idaho. Mountain lions are classified as a big game animal like elk and mule deer. That means that they can only be pursued during set seasons in areas open to hunting with the appropriate license and tag. In general, only one mountain lion can be harvested by a hunter in any given year. Dogs can be legally used to assist a hunter with the pursuit of mountain lions with the appropriate hound hunter permit.
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Field Guides: Mountain Lion Entry