Big cat confirmed in county
Special to the Courier
For some time, there has been speculation that a predator was on the prowl in north central Bandera County. However, no sightings have ever been reported - until two weeks ago.
The afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 18, a crew with the Texas Department of Transportation came across the body of a mountain lion in a ditch along FM 2828. The big cat, undoubtedly the top of the local animal food chain, had apparently been killed during an encounter with a vehicle.
Bandera County Game Warden Mark McQueary opined that motorists passing the location might have assumed the dun-colored animal was just another dead deer. "Both animals are about the same color, so drivers probably didn't give it a second thought," he said.
According to McQueary, the impact had left little damage on the cat's carcass. "We took the body to our biology lab in Kerrville where they're going to do a full body mount," he said. Once that procedure is completed, the cat will be included in the Texas Parks & Wildlife Operation Game Theft traveling exhibit.
Also called cougars, pumas, panthers, painters and catamounts, mountain lions are carnivores that prey on a variety of animals, including deer, wild hogs and javelinas, as well as rabbits, jackrabbits, and rodents - and occasionally livestock and dogs.
Generally found in remote mountains, canyons or hilly areas with good cover, mountain lions are solitary, except during breeding season, which can occur at any time.
McQueary credits the quick work of TxDOT workers with saving the animal's body for display. "They called us immediately and reported their find. The cat was still in beautiful condition with little external damage. His death must have been fairly recent because absolutely no bloating had occurred."
For his part, McQueary couldn't say enough about the crew's diligence. "We wouldn't have been able to use the body if they hadn't called in their find so promptly. We really appreciate it."
He reported the 4- to 5-year-old male cat as "big and healthy," weighing in 121 pounds and measuring 79 inches, six feet, six inches, from tip of its nose to tail - a lot larger than his smaller relative, the bobcat.
"He was a pretty animal and really well fed," McQueary said. "When ranchers lose sheep and goats, they often blame mountain lions."
The cat's body was discovered just past Myrtle Valley about two miles west of Highway 173 North. Earlier, a resident living on Faris Ranch Road, just off FM 2828, had reported finding tracks of a large cat circling his horse barn.
"There are not high numbers of these cats around, but they have a wide range," McQueary explained. "They're very reclusive and seldom seen."
And, as one of the TxDOT crew, who discovered the dead cat, commented, "The game warden said they have a range of around 50 miles or so. This would put him close to my house. Kinda creepy, knowing that!"
However, the untimely demise of this particular male cat could lead to another taking his place sooner rather than later. According to information on www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/species/mlion, mountain lions are found throughout the brushlands of South Texas and portions of the Hill Country. Interestingly, sighting and kill reports indicate that these big cats now occur in more counties than they did 10 years ago. They also appear to be expanding their range into central Texas.