There have been two reports of a possible mountain lion sighting near Nevada in the past week, but no evidence was found to confirm it was the big cat that meandered into Story County.
Capt. Barry Thomas of the Story County Sheriff’s Office said deputies received a call about 7 p.m. Saturday about a possible mountain lion near 650th Street and Lincoln Highway.
Thomas described it as a third-party call, where someone called the Sheriff’s Office to report their sister had seen what she thought was a mountain lion in that area.
“We sent officers, but were unable to locate anything and we have received no further calls on it,” Thomas said Tuesday morning.
Ryan Wiemold, parks superintendent with Story County Conservation, said he received a call on Monday about a possible mountain lion sighting in the East Indian Creek area, east of Nevada. He said he went out Tuesday morning but found no evidence of a mountain lion being the area, which he said is the same general vicinity of the report received by the Sheriff’s Office.
He said the call he received was independent of the call to the Sheriff’s Office.
While Wiemold didn’t dismiss the possibility that a mountain lion had wandered into the area, he thought it was more likely what people are seeing are bobcats.
“Their population has been increasing in this area the past several years,” Wiemold said. “Among the hunting population, whether they’re out hunting deer or turkey, they’re seeing more of them.”
Wiemold said bobcats are nocturnal, and are about 2 to 3 feet long and weigh up to 30 pounds. Mountain lions are much larger, standing up to 3 feet high at the shoulders and 8 to 10 feet long and can weigh 120 to 200 pounds.
Thomas agreed that what was reported to Story County deputies likely wasn’t a mountain lion.
“When you’re driving at night and at the speed you’re going, something could appear a lot larger than it really was,” Thomas said.
Mountain lions are not unusual in Iowa as they move into the state from Nebraska and South Dakota, Wiemold said.
He said most confirmed sightings have been in northwest Iowa. Mountain lions will follow rivers in search of food and possible mates, Wiemold said.
To his knowledge, there has never been a confirmed sighting of a mountain lion in Story County, Wiemold said.