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Officer Forced to Shoot Stalking Mountain Lion

Officer Forced to Shoot Stalking Mountain Lion

Nebraska Game and Parks Wildlife biologist Nic Fryda, left and Conservation Officer Dale Johnson and Kearney Police officer Brian Thome carry away the dead mountain lion. [AP | World-Herald News Service]

Omaha World-Herald via YellowBrix

May 11, 2011

KEARNEY, NE – Jolissa May-Werner is a self-described animal lover.

Of the eight officers on her day shift at the Kearney Police Department, she’s one of the few who doesn’t hunt.

But that didn’t stop May-Werner, 39, from bagging her first big game — a young male mountain lion prowling well inside a southwest Kearney neighborhood Monday morning.

“I did not want to have to kill this thing,” she said about an hour after felling the animal with a single rifle shot to the side of the head.

Nick Fryda, a wildlife biologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said Kearney officers were “well within our protocol” to kill the mountain lion because of the safety issues. Monday’s incident was the first confirmed mountain lion in Kearney, Fryda said.

“We’ve actually had multiple reports over the years of mountain lion sightings,” he said.

Mountain lions are a protected species in Nebraska unless they are in the act of stalking, killing or consuming livestock, or are determined to be a threat to human safety.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission said the 118-pound cat was the 48th confirmed mountain lion sighting in Nebraska, outside the Pine Ridge, since 1991.

Authorities said the carcass of another lion was discovered on a Platte River island near Yutan, just outside Omaha’s western edge, less than two weeks ago. The gender of that cat is unknown due to the amount of decomposition, the commission said.

The Kearney incident came just months after close calls about 300 miles northwest or west of Kearney.

In September 2010, Game and Parks officials shot a young male cougar near Hemmingford after it perched in a Chinese elm tree near a farmhouse.

Days later, a Dawes County woman shot and killed a mountain lion who was watching her free a goat stuck in a fence.

In mid-October, north of Scottsbluff, Game and Parks officials killed a 67-pound female cougar that was near a group of children.

Mountain lions find plenty of wild turkey and deer to feed on as they pass through portions of the state. The mountain lions sighted in central Nebraska may originate in South Dakota and the Pine Ridge area of northwest Nebraska.

Fryda said the single males must move out on their own.

“Their main diet is deer, and there are plenty of deer,” Fryda said. “There’s plenty of game around.”

Almost exactly one year ago, officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources investigated reports that a cougar attacked a quarter horse mare west of Sidney, Iowa. Other reports of alleged cougar attacks on livestock surface from time to time.

In Kearney on Monday, the first report of mountain lion came in just eight minutes before 7 a.m. Within about 25 minutes, the animal was dead.

Neighbors watched as police searched for the young male lion.

Sky Oldham, who lives across the street and just north of the yard where the mountain lion was killed, saw the lion on her yard’s chain link fence just after 7 a.m. She said the family dog Max, a bloodhound, was barking at the big cat on the fence, which jumped off and ran.

Her mother hadn’t been so sure about her daughter’s report. “I just thought she was exaggerating, that it was a raccoon or something,” Candi Oldham said. “I came outside and the cop said, ‘There’s a mountain lion on the loose.’”

But as the cat saw officers, it darted between homes and scaled fences. Officers eventually cornered the cat in the back yard of a nearby house.

That’s where May-Werner encountered it.

As the cat slowly came around the back corner of the house, May-Werner saw its head and right paw. Another officer radioed to May-Werner that the cat was coming directly toward her.

“All I saw was a head peeking at me. His head was about this big,” May-Werner said, holding her hands up in front of her to the size of a volleyball. “If you’ve seen a cat stalk something, he was in stalking mode. There was no doubt he saw me.”

May-Werner hit the lion from a distance of roughly 40 feet. The incident was over by 7:15 a.m.

So why was a mountain lion so far into town? The first reports of sightings were about four to six blocks from a nearby elementary school.

“I think he got into town and just couldn’t get out,” Fryda said. “Almost every yard has a fence. He’d jump one fence, and there would be another.”

He noted that the mountain lion was moving to the west, toward the edge of town, when it was killed.

Fryda understands the concern, but he said the incident was uncommon.

“This is rare,” he said. “People don’t need to be afraid of it (a mountain lion). If you do come across one, don’t corner it. Stay away from it. Most of the time, they will run away.”


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  • Fmf_badge_max50

    Desertfox1A

    about 3 years ago

    562 Comments

    A couple of years ago before I moved into town I had three big cats in my yard over a weeks period. They were building new homes in the hills above were my trailer sat, because of the noise and commotion where the houses were to be built, it forced a family group down into the trailer park where I lived. None of the animals were killed. The big tomcat was about 15 feet from my porch when I came home from the store. When I spotted the cat, I got my pistol out and went out to chase it away. The Sheriff's office did not send anybody out to investigate and insure there where no further problems with the animals. I had to call the State Police the next day and report the cat. I was told that I could shoot the animal if there was a clear and present danger to the neighborhood kids. When I went out to scare the first cat away it just stood up, yawned real wide, then stretched and leisurely strolled away into the dark. The other two cats where more skittish and ran away when I came into the yard. The big tom gave me more of a fright than the other two did. You never know were or when you may run across a bear or a big cat. A few years back they voted to ban hunting cats and bears with dogs. Since then there have been numerous encounters, mostly with the cats, in populated areas.

  • Reblemac_max50

    Keiffer158

    about 3 years ago

    94 Comments

    When you don't allow hunting of an animal you can bet they will have no fear of humans. We became just another source of food to them (could be our trash, our pets or our children.) Look at bears in NJ. Hunt them and they wont hunt us.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    OlympicJoy

    over 3 years ago

    374 Comments

    I live in a small town and there is a 100+ lb mountain lion roaming down the road from my house. I do not mind them in the wild, but when they come this close to civilization, to leave them alone is just asking for trouble. I am glad nothing happened before this one was shot. I shudder to think what would have happened if it was a child instead of an armed officer.

  • Life_giving_sword_max50

    mushin

    over 3 years ago

    64 Comments

    MY HEART GOES OUT TO YOU. I TO AM AN ANIMAL LOVER. BUT WE DO WHAT WE HAVE TO DO WHEN WE PUT ON THE BADGE. WHEN ASKED IF I HUNT I ALWAYS REPLY "IF IT HAS TWO LEGS AND CAN SHOOT BACK." I HAVE HAD TO PUT ANIMALS DOWN IF HURT IN ACCIDENTS AND NO VETS AVAILABLE. IT NEVER GETS EASIER. NEXT TIME AROUND I THINK THE LORD SHOULD GIVE THE WORLD TO ANIMALS AND ELIMINATE MAN ALTOGETHER. AND FOR THOSE WHO THINK ANIMALS DON'T GO TO HEAVEN, WELL MY FRIEND I WANT TO GO WHERE THEY GO, IF THEY'LL HAVE ME.

  • Kevlar_max50

    Twisted_dispatcher

    over 3 years ago

    2160 Comments

    BUMP MARK508

  • Bald-eagle-in-flight_860_max50

    GrayPanther

    over 3 years ago

    1272 Comments

    Unfortunate that the cat had to be put down, but I'd pick human life over wildlife any day if I had to make the choice.

  • Uniphone1_max50

    batman2944

    over 3 years ago

    738 Comments

    Good job Officer May-Werner....I'm glad you're ok.

    "Train for the Fight"

  • Justified_max50

    Dewrah

    over 3 years ago

    270 Comments

    Sad situation, kudos to the officer for responding in the correct manor even though she did not want to. Thumbs down for the unfortunate loss of life.

  • L_ae1b658846e2d300078fb1b39c85f297_max50

    Mark508

    over 3 years ago

    248 Comments

    It's unfortunate that this cat had to be put down, but for it to be that close to school, the officer, and in a populated area it was needed. I work in a rural area and have helped game and fish officers relocate a lot of animals, but none of them had the ability to casue the amount of injury that this cat could have. If time and resources were available maybe things could have been handled differently. The officer did what she thought was best to protect the community that she is sworne to protect.

  • 21_max50

    philfroggy

    over 3 years ago

    1564 Comments

    It's unfortunate that the animal had to be taken out but they did what was necessary to protect the people

  • 10

    MockTertl

    over 3 years ago

    248 Comments

    @tremor2 I totally agree, I was not there I don't know the entire situation, this was merely an exercise ... in certain situations the only reaction available, weighing the odds and keeping things safe is also lethal.

  • Steve_mcqueen_max50

    ilegworldchamp

    over 3 years ago

    8966 Comments

    A threat to civilian populous was walking around on four legs. I don't think anyone take any pleasure in killing one of Gods beautiful creatures unless it is necessary. When confronted with the choice of the possibility of a human life becoming endangered , then the animal must be taken down . "NOBODY WON ON THIS ONE" . The job needed to be done and was done in a human way.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    tremor2

    over 3 years ago

    430 Comments

    'MockTertl,' it is impractical for most police agencies to be trained with and carry around tranq guns/darts. Any tranq strong enough to put down a big cat in minutes would also be strong enough to kill it, depending on the condition of the animal. There was a ton of public outrage when a cougar was shot down in the City of Chicago a couple of years back. People actually complained that the officers could have 'noosed it,' or called a local zoo to come out and sedate the animal. Let's not forget that mountain lions are strong, LETHAL PREDATORY ANIMALS. IF it's a choice between public safety and eliminating the threat of such, that none of us would hesitate in doing what is necessary to protect the public.

  • Crumb_passin_thru_02_1__max50

    mz66

    over 3 years ago

    3898 Comments

    Just to re-iterate--while I still believe officers had no choice, I'm not celebrating--thumbs down.

  • Policememorial---a_max50

    Collegecop_WA

    over 3 years ago

    2380 Comments

    It is unfortunate that this cougar had to be killed to protect the community, but the safety of the public at large trumps the life of the animal. Nice work to all officers involved.

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