— By CHRISTIN COYNE
ANNETTA – After weeks of losing goats on the Annetta property where he works, Lucas Borth said he drove up last week on what he believes to be a feeding mountain lion.
Borth, a mechanic for Ledford Services, said he arrived at work on the property in the 1100 block of Airport Road earlier than usual, around 6:30 a.m., and saw something large in the distance that was not a goat.
He said he turned on his high-beam lights on and saw the mountain lion about a 150 yards away.
“That cat just leaped the fence,” Borth said.
Borth said he was able to get a pretty clear view of the animal and estimated the lion was about as big as a doe and stood at least as tall as his waist.
Dennis Ledford said they lost six goats in about two months, about one per week.
Four baby goats disappeared but the predator didn’t take the two adult animals over the fence, according to Ledford.
“Nobody knew what it was until he saw it,” Ledford said.
They had started penning the goats up to prevent loss of the animals but someone had not put the livestock in the pens that night, according to Borth.
After the animal left, Borth said he checked on the goats and found one dead.
It was still warm and had been eaten in the stomach area, according to Borth.
Borth said he saw one in West Texas at a distance but had never seen one this close up.
“I thought about it all day,” Borth said of the incident.
Jesse Oetgen, a wildlife biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife, said they do receive quite a few calls about mountain lion sightings but haven’t had any reports in Parker County confirmed in recent years.
He has fielded a few reports in the last year or two, including a couple from the area near the Mikus Road exit.
The sighting reports vary, from about 30 minutes before dark to after dark, some at a distance, others in the caller’s backyard, Oetgen said.
Though, they’ve not been able to find any verifying evidence of mountain lions in the area recently, a mountain lion sighting is not out of the question, Oetgen said.
Even in mountainous areas of the state known to have substantial mountain lion populations, the cats are very nomadic and males can travel long distances, Oetgen said, adding that tracking of the animals shows they may be several months making their rounds through their territory.
They aren’t sure what mountain lion territory looks like in urban areas.
A mountain lion moving through small wooded corridors may never return to the area again.
It is possible that if a mountain lion found a food source, such as goats, that it may stay in the area and continue to take as many of the animals as it wanted, according to Oetgen.
He said he wouldn’t dismiss a mountain lion sighting but would want to identify exactly what it was.
Feral dogs and coyotes can also similarly kill livestock.
He recommends that farmers and ranchers suspecting a possible mountain lion buy a game camera to see if they can get photo evidence of the livestock predator.
In addition to seeking photographic evidence, they can also look for other evidence such as footprints.
There is an obvious difference between dog tracks and cat tracks, Oetgen said.
Typically, a mountain lion is also going to leave other signs behind, as well.
Mountain lions usually drag their prey to an area, cover it with leaves and cache it, according to Oetgen. They may look for those drag marks and the cache.
Several weeks ago, a Fort Worth-area woman called and reported that she was playing outside with several children when they believed they saw a mountain lion, Oetgen said.
He advised her not to play outside at dark until she felt comfortable again, he said.
Mountain lions are very secretive and nocturnal and chances are quite slim that if a mountain lion is sighted, that it will return to the area, according to Oetgen.
Those who believe they have seen a mountain lion can contact Oetgen.
“As an agency and biologist, we don’t dismiss these calls,” Oetgen said, adding that the Texas Parks and Wildlife protocol is to interview the person who saw the animal, keep records of the sighting and perhaps follow up with visits to the area.