Bella Vista mountain lion sightings 'unsubstantiated'

BELLA VISTA -- Three recent mountain lion sightings here are "unsubstantiated," said Keith Stephens, assistant chief of communications with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.

"We couldn't find anything, and our officers were out there again (Wednesday)," Stephens said. "They still didn't find anything."

Game & Fish Commission Capt. Brian McKenzie has been out twice to search for scat, hair or tracks left by a mountain lion, but Stephens said no remnants were found.

Three Bella Vista residents reported seeing a mountain lion between Jan. 5 and Jan. 9. At 10:51 a.m. Jan. 5, a caller on Huskins Circle reported to police a "cougar had been in her yard the night before."

At 7:42 p.m. Jan. 9, a caller five miles east on Grier Drive reported a mountain lion in their yard. At 8:16 p.m., Amanda Nouguier posted to the Bella Vista Neighbors Facebook page her "husband just got charged at and stalked by a very large mountain lion" in their backyard near the Cullen Hills area that's in the same area.

She wrote that Bella Vista police investigated and told her "under no circumstances to let our small dog out by herself and do not go outside at night until it's caught."

"We keep track of the sightings we get from time to time, trying to determine if it was a mountain lion or not," Stephens said. He added bobcats, found all over the state, often are mistaken for mountain lions.

"Bobcats are different animals completely," Stephens said. "They're much smaller, and with a bobtail. But they're fairly large and we've got them in a lot of places."

A hunter in south Arkansas killed a mountain lion while deer hunting in November, Stephens said.

Douglas W. Ramer, 62, of Bastrop, La., told wildlife officials that while hunting in Bradley County, a mountain lion was moving toward his deer stand and he felt threatened, according to a Game & Fish Commission news release.

Game & Fish Commission regulations allow hunters to shoot non-game wildlife -- except migratory birds and endangered species -- that present a "reasonable threat" to people or property without a depredation permit.

The 148-pound male mountain lion was the first one killed in Arkansas in nearly 40 years. The last time a mountain lion was killed was in 1975 in Logan County, according to the release. Mountain lions were prevalent in Arkansas until about 1920.

In October 2013, a police cruiser near Mountain View captured on its dash cam what appeared to be a mountain lion darting across a highway.

According to the Game & Fish Commission, there have been only five confirmed mountain lion sightings in the last five years. A breeding population hasn't been verified.

A mountain lion was killed in Montgomery County in 1949 and another in Ashley County in 1969. In late 1998, a team from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock observed tracks, feces and a deer kill from a free-ranging mountain lion across Hot Spring, Garland and Pulaski counties, according to the release.

NW News on 01/16/2015