Most hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts never have seen a mountain lion and for a good reason. Mountain lions simply dont want to be seen.
Nevertheless, North Americas largest member of the cat family remains as one of the most interesting, most misunderstood and most wary wild animals that roam throughout many areas of the state and closer to you than you might think.
Although some states have mountain lion hunting regulations such as seasons and bag limits, Texas has none. That means mountain lions may be hunted at any time and there are no bag limits. In fact, mountain lion "management" has never been a big consideration in this state. Even a Mountain Lion Roundtable discussion at Del Rio in 1992 drew silence from a diverse group of biologists, landowners, and others when Bob Cook of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department asked if anyone there wanted the mountain lion completely removed from Texas.
Mountain lions once roamed virtually all 254 counties in Texas. Today their largest populations are found in far West and South Texas but some mountain lions still exists in many north, central and east Texas counties despite human encroachment, land fragmentation and other developments.
I have seen mountain lions while hunting in Texas and in New Mexico as well as evidence of their presence in other states. One a friend and I saw in Texas was a juvenile cat that attempted to cross a road on a ranch we were hunting near Caddo in Stephens County about 9:30 one morning in 2000. The other is the only Texas mountain lion I have ever shot and I took it at noon a few years ago near Van Horn while hunting mule deer.
Ive also heard the screams of two mountain lions, one on the same Stephens County ranch and the other while hunting in New Mexico.
The screams I heard were exactly like the mountain lion screams the old Weems predator call company in Fort Worth recorded on its portable battery-powered record predator caller in the 1970s. If you ever heard their scream, you would never forget it.
I once found a spike mule deer hanging about 10 feet high in the fork of a tree in a Wyoming canyon and figure nothing other than a mountain lion could have put it there. And one morning a few years ago, a friend and I found a large feral hog that had been shot at dark the day before lying under a big cedar tree with drag marks in the dew-covered ground indicating it had been dragged there by a mountain lion.
That mountain lion had left some of the hair from its back on the lower tree limbs as it backed under the cedar dragging the hog. I compared the hair I found to that of the Van Horn mountain lion I had a taxidermist mount full-body for positive identification.
Photo: Bob Hood
Mountain lions, also called panthers and cougars, have intrigued me ever since I was a young boy growing up in Fort Worth, and they apparently have intrigued many others, especially early settlers in the Fort Worth area.
In fact, Fort Worth was called Pantherville, and sometimes Panther City as early as 1875 after the Dallas Times Herald published an article that year by a former Fort Worth lawyer, Robert Cowart, who reported seeing a mountain lion sleeping in the street beside the courthouse. The panther was eventually captured, named "Billy" by local citizens, and put on display. It died in 1877 and received a celebrated burial.
Thus, Fort Worth was christened "Pantherville in the late 1800s and soon the name "Panther" began to appear everywhere in the town. A Fort Worth fire engine was named "Panther," and two panther cubs were obtained by the local newspaper and housed in a cage at the fire hall.
The Panther craze quickly spread to businesses and organizations who used Panther as its nickname, including the Paschal High School Panthers and the Fort Worth Panthers minor league baseball team that was the founding member of the old Texas League in 1888. The team later called itself the Fort Worth Cats and played its home games at Panther Park near downtown Fort Worth where Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb and other baseball greats played in spring exhibitions.
Indeed, the panther, cougar, mountain lion or whatever you want to call it is around in one way or another. In recent years, mountain lion sightings have been reported in numerous urban areas such as Fort Worth-Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. But that shouldnt be surprising. They were here first and many animals can learn to adapt to changes.