US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in PRAIRIE INVADERS: PROCEEDINGS OF THE 20TH NORTH AMERICAN PRAIRIE CONFERENCE, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AT KEARNEY, July 23–26, 2006, edited by Joseph T. Springer and Elaine C. Springer. Kearney, Nebraska : University of Nebraska at Kearney, 2006. Pages 269-274.


The presence of the cougar (Puma concolor) in the state of Kansas is a controversial issue. Since 1999, 234 cougar sightings have been reported to the Extension Wildlife Specialist at Kansas State University. To those who have reported such sightings, the existence of cougars in Kansas is undeniable. Others, however, question the validity of such sightings as providing evidence of cougars. After surveying other governmental agencies and organizations, we discovered that acceptable identification criteria for rare or unusual felines included things beside sightings: voucher specimens, DNA from hair or scat, tracks, prey carcasses, and photographs or videos. The cougar sightings from Kansas were plotted on a map using ArcGIS 9.1, and the Spatial Analyst Tool was used to test the 3 hypotheses of: 1) cougar sightings are located near rivers, as cover is provided; 2) sightings of cougars are located around captive felines that may be potential breeding partners; and 3) cougar sightings are located within the vicinity of cities with populations greater than or equal to 35,000 people, as the higher densities of observers may be associated with more opportunities for sightings. Our data led us to accept all 3 hypotheses.