Increase in reported mountain lion sightings

Increase in reported mountain lion sightings

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - Mountain lion sightings in Lawton are on the rise. Lawton Animal Welfare says they have received several reports.

There have only been 30 confirmed sightings in Oklahoma in the last 17 years. Two were confirmed this summer. Since then, Lawton Animal Welfare says they’ve been receiving more calls.

“Once someone knows that it’s out there, their brain is going to think they see a mountain lion,” said Russell Anderson, Lawton Animal Welfare Superintendent.

Although reported sightings are not unusual, confirmed accounts are rare.

“Confirmed or not, it’s pretty cool if someone actually gets to see one,” said Anderson.

Because mountain lions are secretive, there is a lot of misinformation and myths about the animal.

“It’s hard to study an animal that doesn’t want to be seen,” said Anderson.

Misidentification could also be to blame for the increase in sightings.

“Mountain lions often get confused with bobcats," said Anderson. "A bobcat will come in and someone will think it is a mountain lion just because it’s an extra large cat.”

The big cats like to avoid confrontation but if you see one, do not approach it.

“You have to keep eye contact with them," said Anderson. "Don’t ever turn away. Never run away from a mountain lion. You stand up tall and you use your loud voice. That helps scare them away. Never run and never crouch.”

You might not see a mountain lion in town; however, it’s not unusual for Lawton residents to see other wildlife.

“I’ve seen the foxes two or three times around the neighborhood and about maybe a year or so ago, they were talking about a bobcat," said Karen McCarter, a Lawton resident. "Although, I guess anything is possible.”

“Lawton, is a rural town. We are honored to have the wildlife refuge, we are honored to have Fort Sill, we’re honored to have all this open land that surrounds Lawton and so that’s the type of stuff that we’re going to see come through,” said Anderson.

As compelling as a reported cougar sighting might be the department of Wildlife Conservation requires hard evidence before a sighting is confirmed.

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