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Mountain lions prowling western North Dakota

Cougars spotted in western North Dakota

Mountain lions have allegedly been spotted on a South Heart golf course and near a local veterinarian's horses, but the North Dakota Game and Fish says they have no concrete evidence the sightings are in fact big cats.

Brett Wiedmann, big game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish office in Dickinson, said over the past three to four years, the Game and Fish has received numerous phone calls reporting mountain lion sightings.

"We have no confirmation that they're seeing a mountain lion," Wiedmann said. "That doesn't mean that someone hasn't seen a mountain lion, but we have no evidence that they're lions."

Wiedmann said after the sightings, officials cannot locate any scat or tracks.

"We get a lot of pictures of house cats," Wiedmann said. "I've had reports and we go out there and it's an orange house cat."

Some residents beg to differ.

Local veterinarian Dr. Kim Brummond, of West Dakota Veterinary Clinic, Inc., and her neighbor, Dale Hewson, swear a mountain lion has been catting around the area.

Brummond, who lives near 25th Avenue East in Dickinson, said her groomer, Jean Hofer, was taking care of her 34 horses Friday evening when Hofer and Hewson spotted the big cat.

"He's apparently about the size of a lab because my groomer thought it was a yellow lab, called him and tried to load him in her car," Brummond said.

Hofer was unavailable for comment.

Hewson said he was within eight feet of the mountain lion and estimates the cat stood about 32 inches high and weighed 60 to 80 pounds.

"The game warden says there is nothing to worry about, but he isn't here," Hewson said. "If it was a house cat, he's an awful big son of a gun."

One of the horses could be the mountain lion's target, Brummond fears.

"Monday afternoon, I saw tracks that measured between 5 1/8 and 5 1/4 across from where he was sitting and watching in a dirt area," Brummond said. "He'd been sitting apparently watching my two-week-old colt. He was within 15 yards of the colt and there were tracks."

Brummond said she also saw tracks in a nearby yard where she has two huskies.

"We have lit up the barn like a Christmas tree and we have turned on a radio, but the problem is, this cat has gotten used to this," Brummond said. "Eventually the lights and noise aren't going to stop it."

About 13 miles away, residents on and near South Heart's Pheasant Country Golf Course say they have witnessed a mountain lion roaming around, and while unconfirmed, a few say it is a mother lion with her cubs.

Eleanor Adamski, who lives near the golf course and Heart River, said after she witnessed golf-carters and neighbors rushing all around the course, she realized the big bushy tail that moved across her deck was a mountain lion.

"They were trying to get it and it ran across ... went straight across the deck and down to the river," Adamski said.

Sandy Simnioniw, of South Heart, who lives north of Adamski, said she spotted a young mountain lion in her yard in July or August.

"It ran through the trees and went to their (Adamski) house and ran across the deck," Simnioniw said.

"It wasn't scared at all ... and that is scary," Simnioniw said, adding golfers have witnessed a mother lion with her cubs.

Wiedmann disagrees.

"A mountain lion doesn't live on a golf course," Wiedmann said. "They have huge home ranges, from 150 to 200 square miles ... they constantly move through that home range hunting."

"This forever changes the way I'm going to live out there, because the lion is certainly now a possibility," Brummond said. "People need to know this lion is walking around here."

North Dakota is in its fifth mountain lion season and reported its first harvest, a 95-pound female cat in northwestern North Dakota, east of Watford City, according to the Associated Press, Tuesday.

The season runs through March.