Mountain lion shot near Iowa school bus stop

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A conservation officer shot a mountain lion near a school bus stop in Sioux County, Iowa.

The mountain lion was first reported Thursday, December 5, 2013 in a wooded area near the Rock River, about four miles south of Rock Valley, Iowa. A hunter saw it on his trail camera that evening.  It was about 40 yards away from the hunter and the mountain lion reportedly did not move.

A conservation officer used paw prints and trail camera photos to confirm the mountain lion was in that area the next day.  When they were checking for the paw prints, a civilian who was with the conservation officer nearly stepped on the mountain lion.

That’s when the man and the conservation officer shot and killed the mountain lion.

“This was definitely something I did not want to do, but this cat was within just a couple of hundred yards of a house with small children who often play in the woods exactly where the lion was,” said Iowa Conservation Officer John Sells.

A statement from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said within a minute of the men shooting the mountain lion, a school bus dropped off kids at a nearby house.  The children all began sledding in an open area next to the kill site.  If the mountain lion had been alive, the kids would have been playing less than 200 yards from the animal.

“It is unfortunate that the lion had to be killed, but given the obvious public safety concern there was really no alternative.  Our primary concern is the protection of human life in this case,” said Sells.

Sells said mountain lions normally try to avoid humans, but this cat did not appear to make any effort to avoid contact with people.

The mountain lion was male and was estimated to weigh between 160 and 180 pounds.


      • Phil Damm

        Relocating wildlife, particularly large carnivores, rarely is effective. They have the ability to travel such great distances, they tend to just end up right back where they started. Working in Wyoming, nuisance grizzly bears were relocated and given “three strikes”, and typically once a nuisance bear, always a nuisance bear. Frequently they would return to their original home range, often within a matter of days. Therefore, more often than not, these relocated bears would end up euthanized. Ever hear of the saying, “a fed bear is a dead bear.” This phrase partially stems from the ineffectiveness of relocation as a management tool.

    • greyhill51

      Ms. Schisler, with all due respect, you might wish to read:
      The Beast In The Garden by David Baron and Cat Attacks:True Stories and Hard Lessons from Cougar Country by Jo Deurbrouck & Dean Miller.
      The former is about cougar presence and attacks in Boulder and Clear Creek counties of CO, and the latter is even more detailed, from CA.

      The two men who put down the cougar in IA may have well prevented a terrible tragedy for the nearby family, who were undoubtedly completely unaware of the cougar’s presence.

  • Deakin

    The Coservation Officer probably wanted to get a crack off at it before one of those gun-toting kids did first. I extremly.agrree…tranquillize and relocate..

    • Child Soldier

      You are probably right. I know I have a hard time keeping my kids from shooting everything they see when they get off the bus. Something about kids exiting a school bus with high capacity magazines in their “assalt” rifles looking to shoot stuff just makes me happy! Idiot…

  • Dee

    I’m Thinking the Only Public Safety Concern here is the Ones Shooting these animals and Spreading Panic and Chaos instead of Educating The Public .. Makes Me Sick! No Reason So Many of these Mountain Lions Have to be Shot and Killed! .. Disgusting!

    • Josh

      Lee Rich..are you talking about the same fore fathers who nearly wiped out the buffalo population to extinction because they must have also felt threatened that their kids might get trampled?? Silly

  • Reason

    Tranquilizers often require temperature controlled storage. Type and dosage have to be EXACT or you’ll either OD it to death or have a very irked predator possibly lashing out at everything/everyone with a sprint away. Tranquilizers also take TIME to work, not something you want to wait around for to take effect on a VERY fast and agile hunter. It could literally be 3 blocks away within seconds after getting hit. The trank gun user also needs to have a second person armed with a real rifle next to him for protection from an enraged animal.

    Y’all watch too much television. The officer did the right thing for the situation.

  • Kyle

    Humans just can’t help but kill things because they are in the wrong place. It saddens me that eventually there won’t be any wildlife left on this planet because our species thinks it’s necessary to kill everything.

  • Bob Barnett

    Oh the ignorance. I am from Colorado. Mountain lions are top tier predators. Children are an easy food source. They bite the child breaking the spine at the base of the neck. Carry the child off and eat the child while they are alive and paralyzed. This is a fact. I know the myth of the wonderful noble beast is alive and well but it is a MYTH. Having said all of this I am for leaving lions, bears, wolves etc, alone in their environment. This cat was stalking a meal. Anyone thinking otherwise is an idiot.

  • dee

    The only ones stalking are the conservation officers hoping to get their trophy mount while on the job! I would rather see a lion in a captive breeding program than dead. Man kills more kids than wild creatures, fact.

    We are training a bunch of trigger happy conservation officers. Education and conservation is what we need.

    • chrism

      Dee, you really live in a fantasy world don’t you. If only there was a magic pill to increase your wisdom and intelligence on life. Don’t get me wrong. I am glad you have a big heart. Unfortunately for you, if you were in that same area, that big cat would have eaten that big heart of yours without a second thought. Also, read the entire thread of comments first. Great information on inability to keep nuisance animals away.

  • Frank Armeson

    @ Bob Barnett…your assessment is painfully accurate. As is clearly evident, many of the posters here cut their teeth on too many Disney animal movies, and have a profound lack of contact with reality.

  • Brian

    Wow everyone is so quick to say the officer was in the wrong and should have relocated the animal…clearly these people don’t know the first thing about being a conservation officer. as others have stated it is very difficult to relocate these animals and even tranquilize them…with kids in the area the officer made the right call. there isn’t any way to know for sure the tranquilizer would work…How about you try and be a conversation officer and when a kid dies because you didn’t want to kill a lion, you can take the blame?

  • dr

    These people enjoy killing animals and should be banned from working in fields that are supposed to protect them…this is absolute non-sense about “children” at risk, they knew the animal was there so, unless these idiots had to leave the area without notifying anyone, what was the risk? Keep the kids inside until you can scare the animal away a couple gunshots into the ground and the animal would have left immediately. What a sick screwed up country this is…welcome to fascist America!

  • Terry

    If that were my back yard I would be thanking the officer for protecting my child. Read the article again. They nearly stepped on it! There is was no time to come up with a better plan. Any hesitation could have cost them their lives and as stated earlier. He was clearly stalking his prey. Its an unfortunate incident but he made the right call.

  • BobMc

    President Theodore Roosevelt, no stranger to wildlife, wrote:
    “It is true, as I have said, that a cougar will follow a man; but then a weasel will sometimes do the same thing. Whatever the cougar’s motive, it is certain that in the immense majority of cases there is not the slightest danger of his attacking the man he follows.” (BiblioBazaar (2009) The Roosevelt Book: Selections from the Writings of Theodore Roosevelt, p 183)

    A more scientific view states:
    “Low levels of confirmed interactions coupled with exceedingly low interaction rates calls into question the validity of management decisions based on interaction reports while suggesting the perceived level of risk from cougars in residential areas disproportionally exceeds actual risk.” (University of Washington (2010) Cougar Ecology, Behavior, and Interactions with People in a Wildland-Urban Environment in Western Washington, Brian N. Kertson, Abstract)

    Researchers approach lions to measure the lion’s reaction:

    Authorities learn of a cougar in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California, and after trapping and collaring, release the cat in Griffith Park.

    It was a bad decision to kill the lion. If the cat were aggressive to humans, it had more than enough opportunities to take down someone. It had traveled at least 400 miles without incident. Iowa killed a cat for the crime of being seen. Lead to the head, the first choice of the uninformed.–what-do-you-fear

  • som sai

    Well I’m glad the DNR in Iowa has some sense at least. If anyone loves lions so much they can come on out to colorado and take some off our hands. We have too many and our Division of Wildlife is always having to shoot them that wander into town and set up camping out in someone’s yard.

    Better yet send them to California.

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