(Photo Courtesy of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources)
"There have been at least three or four (reports) since Friday," said Mike Gregg, a conservation officer from the DNR Division of Law Enforcement, told the Greene County Daily World on Monday.
A confirmed image of a mountain lion was caught on an infrared motion-activated camera during the early morning hours of May 1 in a wooded area not far from County Road 450E, according to Scott Johnson, DNR's non-game mammal biologist and member of the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife's team that assists in reviewing reports having credible evidence.
The photo and a news report was issued by DNR on Friday.
Johnson made the determination from photographs take in the area after a preliminary investigation found evidence consistent with mountain lion behavior, including an eviscerated deer carcass buried under a pile of leaves.
Johnson says he also got a report of another sighting over the weekend, but has not had a chance to look into it.
A couple of mushroom hunters walked up on the mountain lion devouring a deer carcass April 27 and later notified Greg Swanson, a conservation officer from the DNR Division of Law Enforcement, who then contact DNR officials.
"They (the mushroom hunters) heard this squalling sound and it was a deer. When they went up to see what was going on, this mountain lion was on it," Gregg stated. "Mountain lions, whenever they kill something like a deer, they actually cover it with leaves and stuff. They call it a cache."
Cameras were set on April 30, and multiple images of a mountain lion were captured at approximately 2:30 a.m. on May 1.
Conservation officers helped Johnson set the trail cameras and have been informing local residents of the mountain lion's presence.
"This is the first time we've been able to confirm it," Gregg said. "We've had reports where there was a couple of them together and they don't generally travel that way ... most of the time it's really hard to tell what the person saw, if it was late at night."
Gregg said there was a reported sighting on May 2 closer to Bloomfield, not far from State Road 157.
"This lady said it (the mountain lion) jumped right out in front of her in the road. It was in flight by the time she saw it. It could have been headed toward the river bottoms. It's hard to say where this thing is going to end up or where it actually stays most of the time," Gregg stressed.
Mountain lions are known by many names, including cougar, puma, catamount and panther.
Historically, mountain lions lived in most of the eastern United States, including Indiana.
Different published reports cite the last documented case of a wild mountain lion in Indiana as somewhere between 1850 and 1865.
Gregg said male mountain lions vary in size with a male weighing up to 150 pounds and females about 90 pounds. The males have a range of 150 miles while a female generally won't travel more than 60 miles.
"It's going to be anywhere in the county potentially or in other counties around us," Gregg said. "It may come from another county, so this may not be where it hangs out all of the time, it's hard to say."
The conservation officer says mountain lions generally don't stalk their prey and rarely harm livestock.
"They don't like to just walk up on an animal. They'll actually find heavy deer trails and just lay and wait for a deer to walk by and pounce on it," Gregg explained. "That's what it appears this one is doing."
Without additional evidence, Johnson and Gregg both said it's impossible to say if the mountain lion photographed in Greene County is wild or is a formerly captive cat. They also can't determine from the photo if the animal is male or female.
"We're still trying to work on its origin," Johnson said. "I know the law enforcement folks have got a few leads they are trying to work on."
Johnson said a female mountain lion escaped from the Exotic Feline Center near Center Point in Clay County, but there is no determination of whether there is a link with the local incident.
He also said there have been confirmed reports of mountain lions in Greene, Clay, Monroe and Vigo counties for a number of years.
The DNR occasionally receives reports of mountain lion sightings around the state, but typically the evidence has turned out to be something other than a mountain lion, has been inconclusive, or has proved to be part of an Internet hoax.
Since a new DNR policy's inception March 1, 19 mountain lion sightings have been reported.
However, the report in Greene County is the only one confirmed to be a mountain lion.
Prior to implementing the policy, a DNR biologist investigated and confirmed in late 2009 a mountain lion in Clay County based on evidence submitted by a hunter who had taken photographs from an elevated hunting stand. Another biologist investigated a report near Idaville in White County in December, but evidence was inconclusive.
Mountain lions are a protected species in Indiana, but state law allows a resident landowner or tenant to kill a mountain lion while it is causing damage to property owned or leased by the landowner/tenant. If the landowner/tenant wishes to have someone else take the mountain lion, that person is required to secure a permit from the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife.