When thinking of spending time outdoors in Kosciusko County, Indiana, many may think of the abundant lakes and fish, the deer and forest animals scurrying across the roads or maybe even the occasional coyote. Very few would likely question whether a formidable mountain lion was skulking around in the darkness on their properties. For an area hunter and his wife, however, the possibility that a mountain lion may be strolling the night seems very likely.
Cody Lewis is no stranger to hunting. The 50-year old notes he has been hunting since he was 14 years old, primarily focusing his hunts on deer. The hunting veteran utilizes a trail cam during the evenings to photograph wildlife. He later looks at the images on his computer with his wife, Diane. On Wednesday, Oct. 1, Lewis set his camera up around Black Lake on the southeast side of Kosciusko County. At 10:56 p.m., Lewis states the camera captured three images of what he believes is a mountain lion strolling through the area.
“I got it on the camera just the one time,” explained Lewis. “It had a long body, a round, long tail and a round, oval head.”
The photos, which were shot in quick succession of each other, were surprising for Lewis who admits he had never seen anything like it.
“This is the first time [I’ve seen] something like this,” states Lewis. “I’ve heard rumors and was told to keep an eye out, but this is the first time I have seen something like this.”
Lewis was not the only one to hear rumors of possible mountain lion sightings. According to Grace College Associate Professor of Environmental Science Nathan S. Bosch, Ph.D., other possible sightings of mountain lions around the Pierceton area have been reported over the years, though Bosch notes these reports are “far from common at this time.”
“I would like to see a clearer, closer picture to be able to confirm this, indeed, as a mountain lion,” stated Bosch. “But it looks possible based on the picture we have here.”
According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the mountain lion, also known as the cougar, puma, catamount and panther, once lived in much of the eastern United States however they were extirpated from Indiana by the late 1800s.
The DNR reports that Indiana has no breeding population of mountain lions, however, data collected by the Cougar Network and other states over the past decade suggest mountain lions are appearing outside their traditional western range. According to the DNR, these appearances may be the result of an increase in mountain lion numbers in western states. Animals found outside of their Western range are usually young, transient males, which, according to the DNR, reduces the possibility of a viable population developing in Indiana.