A yearling mountain lion killed by a hunter in Southeast Idaho was a little toothier than usual.
It had teeth as well as fur and whiskers growing out of the left side of its head.
Fish and Game officials in Preston checked the male after it was killed in late December, and are hoping to be recontacted by the hunter to find out where the carcass is.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Jackson says that biologists would like to check it out to see from a scientific standpoint just what was going on with the cougar.
They’re waiting on the hunter to return a voice mail, she says.
Meanwhile, as for what might have caused the growth, KSL reports:
Jackson said the mass of teeth, hair and whiskers could be a conjoined twin that stopped developing and embedded itself on the lion while in the womb.
Another theory, which officials say is more likely, is that the growth is a teratoma – a rare tumor that contains extremities like teeth and hair.
While deformities have been documented in domesticated animals, they’re not so well known in the wild. The struggle to survive is tough enough as it is, but to grow to adulthood with one would be difficult, Jackson says.
On the flip side, she says an albino moose in Southeast Idaho was able to reproduce.
BELOW IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM IDAHO FISH AND GAME WITH MORE DETAILS
Clarifications On Deformed Mountain Lion From Southeastern Idaho
The recent harvest of an unusual mountain lion in southeastern Idaho has been generating a lot of interest and questions among media and the public.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game would like to share a few facts and some additional information regarding the harvest of this mountain lion and its unusual deformity.
– A young male mountain lion was legally harvested last week in the Weston area about 8 miles southwest of Preston, Idaho.
– On December 30, 2015, the mountain lion was observed attacking a dog on a landowner’s property in the rural Weston area. The mountain lion ran off and its tracks were followed through other properties and eventually to a place where the cat had retreated to the hills. Within three hours of the attack, the hunter began tracking the mountain lion with the use of hounds and harvested the cat legally that same day. The dog involved in the attack survived.
– The mountain lion had an unusual deformity-fully-formed teeth and what appears to be small whiskers were growing out of hard fur-covered tissue on the left side of the animal’s forehead.
– Idaho Fish and Game cannot definitively explain why this abnormality developed on this mountain lion. It is possible that the teeth could be the remnants of a conjoined twin that died in the womb and was absorbed into the other fetus. It is also possible that deformity was a teratoma tumor. These kinds of tumors are composed of tissue from which teeth, hair, and even fingers and toes can develop. They are rare in humans and animals. Biologists from the southeast region of Idaho Fish and Game have never seen anything like this particular deformity before.
– As required by law, the hunter reported the harvest of the mountain lion to Fish and Game, and a conservation officer checked the mountain lion– a process that includes verifying the hunter has a valid hunting license and tag, recording information about the harvest location and method of take, recording information about the animal itself, and pulling a tooth for age analysis. The hunter is not required to turn the animal over to Fish and Game for further analysis.
– Mountain lions are common in Idaho and a native game species. Because of their elusiveness and wariness, human encounters with mountain lions are rare. During the winter, deer , turkeys, and other prey species move to lower elevations to escape colder temperatures and deeper snow, often gathering where urban or rural communities interface with the surrounding wildlands. These prey species attract predators like mountain lions. When that happens, conflicts with people, livestock, and pets can occasionally occur.
– Mountain lions can be legally hunted in Idaho. Mountain lions are classified as a big game animal like elk and mule deer. That means that they can only be pursued during set seasons in areas open to hunting with the appropriate license and tag. In general, only one mountain lion can be harvested by a hunter in any given year. Dogs can be legally used to assist a hunter with the pursuit of mountain lions with the appropriate hound hunter permit.
General Mountain Lion Facts
Mountain lions are large cats, tawny to grayish in color, weighing 80-200lbs. The tail, which can range in length from 2 ½ to 3 feet, is rope-like in appearance (not bushy) and has a black tip.
Mountain lions have large home ranges (50 to 150 square miles).
Mountain lions prey on deer, elk, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep-with deer being the common prey in Idaho. They will also eat raccoons, rabbits, and other small mammals. Occasionally, they will prey on domesticated pets and livestock.