Idaho Fish and Game mystified by rare, deformed mountain lion
PRESTON, Idaho (KBOI) -- A mountain lion with an extremely rare deformity is a puzzling discovery for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Officials were intrigued when the reported "harvest" was presented; the mountain lion had visible teeth, presumably small whiskers and "hard, fur-covered tissue" coming out of its forehead. Further analysis by biologists is in the works to determine the cause of this rare sight.
The mountain lion was first spotted eight miles southwest of Preston on Dec. 30. Fish and Game says the mountain lion was seen attacking a dog on someone's property in the rural Weston area. The wild feline ran off, but his tracks were able to be followed onto other properties and into the hills.
Three hours later, the hunter found the mountain lion with the "use of hounds" and killed it legally that day. Fish and Game workers say the dog survived the initial attack.
Jennifer Jackson, the regional conservation educator for Fish and Game, says it's unknown why its deformed, but it's possible there was a conjoined twin that died in the womb and absorbed into the other fetus. Another possibility is a teratoma tumor, which are tumors that allow teeth, hair, fingers and toes to grow, and are incredibly rare in humans and animals.
After the hunter killed the lion, Idaho law requires the "harvest" to be reported to IDFG and hunt has to be verified and validated by recording license information, location of the kill, and sometimes conducts an analysis of the animal's demographics.
IDFG says mountain lions can be legally hunted in Idaho and are classified as big game animals, like elk and mule deer. Big game animals can only be hunted during set seasons with the right license and tag, however, a hunter can only obtain one mountain lion in any given year.
These cats are large, weighing 80 to 200lbs, with a "rope-like" tail that has a black tip, according to Fish and Game officials. They prey on deer, elk, moose, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep, but will sometimes eat small animals or domesticated pets and livestock.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.