HARLINGEN, Texas – A mountain lion was hit and killed by a car traveling near Highway 77 in Cameron County in the Rio Grande Valley over the weekend, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials said.
According to a statement from TPWD provided to KSAT, the mountain lion was killed north of Harlingen.
Tony Henehan, a wildlife biologist with TPWD, said the animal was reported by some individuals who were driving down the highway and noticed others who stopped to look at the cat.
“Game wardens responded, investigated the scene, picked up the animal for collection, for scientific study and educational purposes,” Henehan said. “And it was just a roadkill mountain lion.”
A rare sight anywhere in Texas, Henehan said seeing one of the cats is even rarer in the Rio Grande Valley.
“Within Cameron County and a couple of other counties, we have less than 10 confirmed sightings,” Henehan said. “We had a picture of one show up on a camera at Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area last fall and that was the first one we had in-house in the last 15 years. So, even just seeing a mountain lion here in the valley is very rare.”
According to Henehan, the cat found dead near the highway was a juvenile who likely had recently left his family unit to look for a new area to establish as a home range. He said when a young mountain lion does that it can go as far as 300 miles from where it was born.
Henehan said that the cats are often seen more often north of the Rio Grande Valley because the mountain lions have more open areas to roam. He said the sighting shows TPWD officials that the Rio Grande Valley has patches of habitat suitable for a mountain lion and is encouraging for the region’s biodiversity.
“I think it is a good sign that we’re seeing that because they are large predators, they need larger to survive,” Henehan said. “And the Rio Grande Valley is an area of high urbanization, high habitat fragmentation. And we know that those kinds of things negatively impact wildlife. So, the fact that a large predator exists in the area shows that there are some patches of good habitat around. And so that’s what we want to see.”
However, Henehan says area residents are not in any danger due to the sighting.
“I would really caution (residents) to get concerned about something like this or be afraid for themselves or their family or anything like that, because these sightings are so rare,” Henehan said. “Mountain lions are, by nature, secretive. I think a really important thing for folks to remember. Mountain lions, in the early 20th century, were extensively targeted for removal by government agencies and individuals and they survived through that pressure because of how secretive they are. They’re very hard to find. So, even if they do exist, they do not like people. They want to be away from people as much as possible. And that’s really important to remember.”
To date, officials have reported two mountain lion sightings in Cameron County within the last year and 36 across the state.
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