By Brooks Hays
Mountain lions, also called cougars or pumas, were once abundant in Arkansas and throughout the United States.
Douglas W. Ramer shot and killed a 128-pound mountain lion while hunting deer in Arkansas. Three days later, the 62-year-old Louisiana native reported his kill to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, claiming he killed the predator in self-defense.
Commission officials say the lion was killed east of Hermitage in Bradley County. It's the first lion killed in Arkansas since 1975. Ramer told wildlife officials that the lion was approaching his deer blind, and he felt threatened.
"According to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission regulations, non-game wildlife (except migratory birds and endangered species) that present a reasonable threat to people or property may be shot during daylight hours or trapped without a depredation permit," officials wrote in a press release.
As of now, Ramer isn't being charged with any violation, but officials are investigating the details of the killing. Scientists are also investigating. The carcass has been turned over to biologists, who are testing DNA samples to try to determine where the animal came from.
Mountain lions, also called cougars or pumas, were once abundant in Arkansas and throughout the United States. But hunting, trapping and habitat loss chased their dwindling populations into smaller and smaller pockets of wilderness. Mountain lions were extirpated from Arkansas by 1920.
While cougar numbers have slowly bounced back, with small populations percolating in to Midwestern states like Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, only the West Coast hosts concentrations sizable enough to sustain breeding populations.
That could be changing as cougars branch off and look for new territory. Sightings have been on the uptick in the Southeast -- with at least a dozen or so reported in Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana over the last five years.