At this point in time, there is very little debate that mountain lions are indeed back in Iowa. For years the Department of Natural Resources denied their existence. But finally, enough good photographic and video evidence surfaced, giving validity to the claims. Sightings have been confirmed in most regions in the state with wildlife officials still claiming that there aren't enough of the big cats around to establish a breeding population. A few days ago a photo popped up in my Twitter feed that once again proved the big cats are back. Or did it?

Many people, including myself, are fascinated with mountain lions. While they used to be native to our state decades ago, their reemergence seems almost out of place. So when someone claims that had an encounter with one, people pay attention. On December 6th, a picture surfaced on Twitter that claimed an Iowa hunter had an encounter with a mountain lion while out raccoon hunting in the Stratford, Iowa area. The city is just North of Boone, Iowa. For those who don't like pictures of deceased animals, this is your warning.

People have been fooled by pictures online before. So I did a quick Google search and this photo did not come up anywhere else, which at least means it is recent. I also reached out to the Twitter user who posted it for some more information but have yet to hear from him. There were some other posts that seemed to lend validity to the area in which the big cat was shot, including this one about tracks in the area.

The Boone Forks Wildnerness area is just to the North of Stratford, where the mountain lion was reportedly shot. But the other question I have about the picture is, why? Why shoot this beautiful animal? Was the hunter's life in danger? If so, then I understand protecting yourself. Was the big cat harming the neighbor's cattle or livestock? If so, defend your property. But just killing a mountain lion so you can be Twitter famous is something I just don't understand.

Perhaps it is time to discuss protecting these animals as they begin to appear more often in our state. There are enough deer in this state for them to feed on, so I can't see them leaving any time soon. As long as they don't pose a threat, why not allow them to live here in peace? I'd love to shoot one myself. Fortunately, my weapon of choice is a camera.

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