I’ve been hearing a lot about mountain lions lately. How common are mountain lions in Iowa and how did they get here?
Mountain lions (puma, cougar, and panther) were once found throughout the state but not in great numbers and disappeared from Iowa in the 1860s. The chance of mountain lions returning to Iowa was slim due to the lack of suitable habitat. In recent years, populations of mountain lions have increased in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Missouri. Recently there have been reports of mountain lion sightings in Iowa. The increase in deer populations in the Midwest may be one explanation why they are increasing. The mountain lions showing up in Iowa have been young males perhaps looking for a new territory. It’s possible that some of the lion sightings have been escaped pets.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has not released any mountain lions in Iowa, nor do they plan to. The Iowa DNR has received numerous reports of sightings in the state. However, a report can not be verified unless a carcass, photo, or track is preserved. Mountain lions are by no means "common" in Iowa.