The Dallas Morning News

Mountain lion sighting confirmed in Dallas area

Oftenmista­ken big cat was identified on Rowlett trail cam

- By DAVID TARRANT Staff Writer dtarrant@dallasnews.com

For those who have long poohpoohed the idea of a mountain lion roaming around North Texas, chew on this.

A Rowlett woman recently posted on her Facebook page a trail camera video of a mountain lion walking down a dirt road at night. The spooky image showed a big cat with a long tail that touched the ground, a feature that distinguis­hes it from a bobcat, for which the mountain lion is commonly mistaken.

Stephanie Higgins and her boyfriend, Logan Aduddell, had set up the trail camera on the edge of his property near Lake Ray Hubbard, where they said they typically saw bobcats and coyotes.

But at about 4 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22, a mountain lion strolled past the camera.

A few hours later that morning, they looked at the video. “We reviewed it a couple of times and came to the conclusion it was a mountain lion based on the size and how long the tail was,” Higgins said.

Later that day, Higgins posted the video on her Facebook site, with the cap

tion “Big kitty in the city!!”

Chris Jackson, who runs a popular website and Facebook page called DFW Urban Wildlife, confirmed that he later inspected the mountain lion’s tracks. He found them “in soft wet sand just south of where the videos of the cat were recorded,” he said. He also shared his photos with a tracking expert who verified the prints.

Bobcats are often mistaken for mountain lions, but the latter are much larger and have long tails that touch the ground. Bobcats have short tails, no more than 6 inches.

“I’m about as convinced as I can be without seeing the cat myself,” Jackson said. “The video appears to be legitimate, and the tracks were found in close proximity,” he said.

Akin to Bigfoot

An urban wildlife biologist from Texas Parks and Wildlife visited the site Monday to try to confirm the sighting but couldn’t find the tracks, which likely were washed away by recent rains.

But the state biologist, Sam Kieschnick, said there’s more than enough evidence from the video and the tracks found by Jackson, whose photos were looked at and confirmed as mountain lion tracks by TPW experts.

Kieschnick is aware that a mountain lion sighting is so rare in North Texas that it has acquired a mysterious, almost mystical nature, akin to “the Bigfoot of North Central Texas,” he said.

“My standard M.O. is to treat all these reports with skepticism,” he said. “But I can definitely say this is verifiable,” Kieschnick said Monday.

It’s likely the mountain lion is a young adult male on the prowl for a suitable environmen­t with plenty of food, typically deer.

“This species needs a large swath of wilderness,” Kieschnick said. “I predict it’s going to be on the move looking for that.”

Since 2005, Jackson has been investigat­ing the possibilit­y of mountain lions in the North Texas region. He’s only been able to confirm two instances near the Dallasfort Worth area. One was near Glen Rose in 2014, which was the subject of a story in The News. The other was near Mineral Wells in 2018, when a mountain lion was hit by a vehicle on State Highway 337.

Texas Parks and Wildlife keeps track of mountain lion sightings throughout the state. A map of confirmed reports shows one in Grayson County, which Kieschnick said was from 2018.

Since 2011, nearly 300 mountain lion sightings have been reported to Parks and Wildlife from all over the state. Most could not be confirmed, and only a fraction were verified.

Though they once roamed all over Texas, mountain lions are now found mostly in West Texas in the Trans Pecos region. There are also pockets of the animals in South Texas, the Panhandle, Hill Country and East Texas where Texas wildlife officials have confirmed sightings.

‘A whole lion’

Another woman near the Dalrock neighborho­od in Rowlett said she had seen what she thought was a mountain lion jump into her backyard early that same Sunday morning, after she had returned from a quick trip to a gas station.

“I was shocked,” said Jovon Humphrey, a mother of five children

About 12:45 a.m. that Sunday, Humphrey was sitting in her car finishing up a call when she saw the cat stroll down her driveway, past her car and jump over the chain link fence into

her backyard.

“Oh my gosh, there’s a whole lion in my backyard,” she said out loud. “I was trying to remain calm so as not to call attention to myself,” she said. But she let out a muffled shriek. The cat paused and looked back at her. For a few, frightenin­g moments, she held her breath. Then the cat turned back and ambled off into the darkness.

Humphrey never saw it again. Later that day, she posted a comment on a Rowlett community Facebook page to warn others of what she had seen. A specialist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife later talked to her.

‘Leave him alone’

Higgins said she and her boyfriend set up the trail camera just “to see the stuff that’s behind our house,” which has included packs of coyotes and bobcats.

“People lose their dogs, and sometimes we’ll see them on the camera, and we’re able to tell them they were in our area at a certain time,” she said.

She said someone commented on her Facebook post that they thought they had seen the cat crossing State Highway 66 a few hours before her camera got its picture, which meant the creature was heading south in the direction of Miller Road.

Higgins said she didn’t want to share their property address because of concerns about curiosity seekers or folks who wanted to hunt down the cat. Several comments on the Facebook post indicated that people wanted to bring their hunting dogs to the area or set up deer blinds to see if the cat appears again.

“I think they should just leave him alone,” said Higgins, who works in the constructi­on industry and is also a hunter.

“There’s no point in trying to capture him and relocate him given the fact that they travel 4080 miles,” she said. “It’d be one thing if we saw them frequently, but we see them rarely.”

 ?? Stephanie Higgins ?? Stephanie Higgins of Rowlett recently posted on Facebook a trail camera video of a mountain lion walking down a dirt road at night. The big cat has a long tail, a feature that distinguis­hes it from a bobcat.
Stephanie Higgins Stephanie Higgins of Rowlett recently posted on Facebook a trail camera video of a mountain lion walking down a dirt road at night. The big cat has a long tail, a feature that distinguis­hes it from a bobcat.
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 ?? Chris Jackson ?? LEFT: Jovon Humphrey poses on Monday near the area where she recently saw a mountain lion jump the fence at her home in Rowlett. ABOVE: The mountain lion’s tracks helped officials confirm the big cat sighting in Rowlett.
Chris Jackson LEFT: Jovon Humphrey poses on Monday near the area where she recently saw a mountain lion jump the fence at her home in Rowlett. ABOVE: The mountain lion’s tracks helped officials confirm the big cat sighting in Rowlett.
 ?? Jason Janik/special Contributo­r ??
Jason Janik/special Contributo­r

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