An archery deer hunter shot and killed a protected cougar while fearing for his safety, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Randy Johnson, a large carnivore specialist with the department, told Wisconsin Public Radio the hunter was in a tree stand with his bow on Saturday, Nov. 11, when he spotted movement.
“The last thing I think he was expecting was a cougar,” Johnson told the outlet. He said the hunter tried to scare off the creature, but it didn’t leave.
At some point, the hunter felt unsafe and decided to shoot the cat, according to a Nov. 15 news release from the state department. The hunter in Buffalo County reported the shooting to wildlife officials, who then collected the carcass and opened an investigation.
Cougars, also called mountain lions, are protected in Wisconsin, officials said. Because of their protection status, state conservation wardens investigated the shooting and presented findings to the Buffalo County District Attorney.
“After careful review and consideration, no charges will be filed,” officials said.
Cougars can only be shot in Wisconsin if the animal is threatening someone’s safety or preying upon livestock, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Cougars are native to Wisconsin, officials said, but they were extirpated in the early 1900s. Since then, state wildlife officials have not found evidence of a breeding population.
“In the last 20 years, observations of cougars have been increasing but are still rare, with an average of 15-20 reports verified by the (state) annually,” according to the release. “All evidence to date suggests that most, if not all, of these observations are of dispersing individuals from established populations out west. Dispersing cougars also do not tend to stay in one location for long and have been recorded traveling up to 1,600 miles.”
It is believed this is the first time a hunter has killed a cougar in Wisconsin in about 115 years, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
Buffalo County is on the western edge of Wisconsin, about 100 miles southeast of Minneapolis.
What to do if you see a mountain lion
Mountain lions are typically “calm, quiet and elusive,” according to the National Park Service. While attacks involving mountain lions are rare, they are possible.
“Even so, the potential for being killed or injured by a mountain lion is quite low compared to many other natural hazards,” the National Park Service said on its website. “There is a far greater risk, for example, of being killed in an automobile accident with a deer than of being attacked by a mountain lion.”
Officials said there are some things you do take to prevent a mountain lion encounter from becoming an attack.
Stay calm and back away slowly.
Face the lion and stand up straight.
Don’t approach a mountain lion, especially if it’s with kittens.
Don’t run. It could stimulate a mountain lion’s chase instincts.
Pick up small children so they don’t panic or run away.
Don’t bend over or crouch down.
Throw things at the mountain lion if it continues to move toward you.
If the mountain lion attacks, fight back using anything around you.
Report all sightings, encounters or attacks to local park rangers or law enforcement.