A photo of a mountain lion represents the first confirmed sighting of a mountain lion on the Winnebago Reservation in Nebraska in decades. Photo courtesy Matt Morgan

Winnebago Tribe confirms first sighting of mountain lion in decades

'They leave me alone ... I leave them alone'

Photo shows rare mountain lion on reservation in Nebraska
By Kevin Abourezk

Matt Morgan has seen mountain lions on his family’s farm in northeast Nebraska for years, but in all that time, and despite having set up several cameras along trails, he’s never caught a photo of one.

Until last week.

Last Thursday night, a cellular camera he set up on a hunting trail on his family’s farm between Emerson and Winnebago caught a blurry photo of a mountain lion.

The Winnebago Tribe’s Wildlife and Parks Department confirmed the photo was of a mountain lion on Friday.

“I’ve seen them with my own eyes for at least 10 years,” Morgan said. “This is just the first picture.”

The 43-year-old also took a photo of a deer carcass that he and the tribe’s wildlife department believe were left by the mountain lion.

He’s said he’s not concerned about the mountain lion and doesn’t plan to hunt it.

“They leave me alone,” said Morgan, who is not a Winnebago citizen but who has a close relationship with the tribe's game wardens. “I leave them alone.”

MOUNTAIN LION ON THE REZ Matt Morgan captured the first confirmed photo of a mountain lion on the Winnebago Reservation...

Posted by Indianz.Com on Monday, March 19, 2018
MOUNTAIN LION ON THE REZ: Photos courtesy Matt Morgan

Gayla Whitewater with the tribe’s wildlife department said mountain lion sightings are very rare in Winnebago, though they are native to the state of Nebraska. She said the mountain lion photo constitutes the first confirmed sighting on the tribe’s reservation in decades.

“They were eliminated by the state by the end of the 1800s,” she said. “Mountain lions returned through natural expansion from populations in Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming. Populations in Nebraska first formed in Pine Ridge in the early ’90s.”

She said her department often receives calls from residents of rural Winnebago who claim to have seen or heard mountain lions on their property but has never received physical proof.

“Mountain lions are very secretive and most active from dusk to dawn, so they rarely interact with people,” Whitewater said. “Typically, they hide or flee when a person is encountered.”

Mountain lion attacks are rare, averaging about six per year in North America. And only about one of those are typically fatal per year.

Mountain lions are solitary, territorial and actively avoid other cats, except during courtship.

The Winnebago Wildlife and Parks Department offered this advice to those concerned about a mountain lion on or near their property or who encounter a mountain lion:

· If you are concerned about an attack, don’t walk or cycle alone. Solitary hikers are three times more likely to be attacked than people in a group.
· Do not approach a mountain lion.
· Leave the animal an avenue of escape.
· Stay calm, move slowly.
· Back away safely if you can. Do not turn your back to the lion or start running.
· Raise your arms or backpack to appear larger.
· Lift up your children to prevent them from running.
· If you are being attacked, fight back. People have utilized rocks, jackets, garden tools, tree branches, walking sticks, fanny packs and even bare hands to turn away cougars. If they get any sense that you can hurt them, or that you’re not worth the effort, they’ll likely disengage and run to safety.

The department has restricted access to the tribe’s woodlands

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