HILLSBORO, N.D. - Details are sketchy at this point, but the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has confirmed a hunter legally shot and killed a mountain lion Tuesday, Dec. 19, northwest of Hillsboro.
Mike Sedlacek, district game warden for Game and Fish in Fargo, said he took the call from the hunter who shot the lion and reported it within 12 hours as required.
The hunter has said he wants to remain anonymous.
The cat is the first to be taken this far east in North Dakota in several years, said Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck. Eastern North Dakota is part of mountain lion hunting Zone 2, which covers most of the state outside traditional lion country in western North Dakota.
"I'm sure it stirred up some local discussion," Williams said.
Sedlacek said he didn't see the mountain lion in person and couldn't confirm whether it was a male or female, but a posting on the North Dakota Bucks & Bulls Facebook page indicates the cat was a female weighing about 100 pounds.
Williams said he couldn't confirm that, adding it's not uncommon for the sex to be misinterpreted with mountain lions.
After receiving the report about the harvested mountain lion, Sedlacek said he contacted Stephanie Tucker, the department's furbearer biologist and Game Management Section leader in Bismarck, who gave the go-ahead for the hunter to bring the cat to a taxidermist for mounting.
Eventually, the Game and Fish Department will receive the animal's carcass for further study.
"We'll try to get it as soon as possible to get some more information on it," Williams said.
While the badlands country of western North Dakota offers the primary habitat for mountain lions, the cats occasionally move through the region.
Last month, a landowner near Devils Lake documented multiple mountain lion sightings on his trail cameras, and another lion was reported near Hankinson, N.D., Sedlacek said.
Whether the cat taken Tuesday near Hillsboro was either of those two lions would only be speculation, Williams said.
"The only thing we do know is cats have the ability to move a long distance in a short period of time," he said. "We knew both of those cats were around (Devils Lake and Hankinson), but who knows? It could be another one from another area."
According to the Game and Fish Department's website, hunters in Zone 1 shot six mountain lions, two shy of the quota, during the early season that began Sept. 1 and closed Nov. 26.
The late season in Zone 1, which began Nov. 27, continues through March 31 or until the quota of no more than seven mountain lions - or three female mountain lions - has been reached.
Mountain lion season in Zone 2 opened Sept. 1 and continues through March 31. There's no quota on the number of cats that can be taken in Zone 2, and hunters can use firearms or archery equipment.
Hunters also can use dogs to pursue mountain lions beginning Nov. 27.
So far, hunters in Zone 2 have taken two mountain lions, but both of those cats were shot much farther west, Williams said. One was shot south of Hazen, N.D., and the other was taken northeast of Belfield, N.D., near the border with Zone 1, he said.
North Dakota has offered a mountain lion season since 2005.