Drone Pilot SchoolDriver hit mountain lion in Nebraska car crash, sheriff says

September 28, 2021by helo-10
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A male mountain lion was found dead after a car crash in eastern Nebraska. That is not the mountain lion pictured.

A male mountain lion was found dead after a car crash in eastern Nebraska. That is not the mountain lion pictured.

National Park Service via AP

A driver in eastern Nebraska called for help after hitting an animal they believed was a mountain lion, officials said.

While the high school driver was confident in what she struck, the Lincoln Journal Star reported, the cougar was nowhere to be found.

This was at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on Highway 14, and when deputies arrived, they “found evidence that the driver had correctly identified the animal,” according to a Facebook post from the Nance County Sheriff’s Office.

“The hood was dented in, and there was cat hair stuck in the grille,” said Sheriff Ben Bakewell, according to the Journal Star. “Lots of hair.”

Because they couldn’t find the mountain lion along the highway, and because the accident was so close to homes and the city of Fullerton, the sheriff’s office and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission began a search for the mountain lion. They also notified residents of the risky situation.

“An injured predator such as a mountain lion can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable if encountered in the wild,” the sheriff’s office said just after midnight Wednesday, about four hours following the collision.

The search was unsuccessful that night, the post says, so the search was called off until daylight Wednesday.

That Wednesday, deputies used a drone with a thermal camera to find the animal. With its help, they found a “large heat source through the trees,” the sheriff’s office said, and the drone pilot led a deputy on foot to the animal. This was in a “wooded area” east of the highway.

There, at about 12:30 p.m., Bakewell and the state wildlife department confirmed finding a male mountain lion, officials said.

“The animal had been dead for several hours and appears to have succumbed to injuries from the vehicle collision,” the post says.

The department shared a photo of the dead mountain lion in the back of a truck. Warning: The image in the hyperlink is graphic.

“It’s definitely a very large cat,” Bakewell said, according to the Journal Star. “It’s unbelievable how big of a paw it had.”

Male mountain lions typically weigh between 100 and 170 pounds, according to Nebraska Game and Parks.

Once native to Nebraska, mountain lions were eliminated from the state in the 1890s and not seen again until 1991, the department says.

The cougars returned to the state “through natural expansion from large populations in Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming,” the department says.

There are three confirmed breeding populations in Nebraska, officials say, within Pine Ridge, Niobrara River Valley and Wildcat Hills. Those populations are not in the area of Tuesday’s crash.

“Due to their recent establishment in these areas, there are no estimates for these populations at this time,” the department said in a May 2020 update. “A few more animals typically wander elsewhere in the state as well.”

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says it “is interested in verifying mountain lion observations in Nebraska.”

Anyone with evidence of a mountain lion within the state, such as trail camera footage, tracks, feces or hair, is asked to call their local commission office for investigation.

Kaitlyn Alanis is a McClatchy National Real-Time Reporter based in Kansas. She is an agricultural communications & journalism alumna of Kansas State University.





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