January 15, 2010

No unusual signs on Fort Berthold lions

No unusual signs on Fort Berthold lions
By MARVIN BAKER
EDITOR
A furbearer biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department who examined the carcasses of two mountain lions that were killed on the Fort Berthold Reservation in late December, said they showed no unusual characteristics and were considered healthy animals.
It is common knowledge that mountain lions, sometimes called cougars, can travel long distances. However, these two, at least as far as Stephanie Tucker could ascertain, were very similar to others found in western North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.
“There are not different breeds of mountain lions in North Dakota,” Tucker said. “In fact, all mountain lions in North America are genetically the same subspecies.”
Using genetics, Tucker was able to tell that the two males that were harvested on the western edge of the reservation on Dec. 28 and Dec. 30, most likely grew from kittens somewhere in this area.
“They’re all the same subspecies, but because mountain lions are capable of roaming long distances, it’s conceivable that a mountain lion from South Dakota could breed with one from North Dakota,” Tucker said. “Even though these other populations are hundreds of miles away, they’re all the same subspecies.”
She added that lions found in Florida, despite being in the same subspecies as those found in North Dakota, are slightly different because they suffer from genetic inbreeding.
Tucker said the two lions she examined revealed nothing unusual. The first male weighed 107 pounds and the second weighed 133 pounds, very typical for these animals between the ages of 1 and 3 years old. Hunters from Mercer County used hounds to tree the animals before they were shot.
 


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