mountain lion crouches down in the green grass
Getty Images, KenCanning

Mountain Lion Sightings Are Rare in Arkansas, But One Was Just Found Dead

And what killed it is a mystery.

Unlike some states where mountain lion sightings are a weekly occurrence, there have only been 23 sightings of the big cats in Arkansas since 2010, including one in November of 2023. But officials just discovered their first dead lion in nearly a decade—and what killed it remains a mystery.

Jenn Ballard, an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission veterinarian, performed a necropsy on the animal. Unfortunately, the examination provided only more questions. The cougar was not shot, and it did not have any injuries that would have suggested that it was hit by a moving vehicle.

"An adult male mountain lion weighing 118 pounds and measuring approximately 85 inches in length was examined Thursday at the AGFC Calico Rock regional office," Ballard said in a press release. "The carcass was moderately decomposed and was extremely thin. It had severely worn, broken, and missing teeth, and the stomach was empty."

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The results warrant further investigation. Tissue samples will be sent to the University of Georgia's Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study and the University of California-Davis' California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory. The universities will test for viruses and toxins.

There hasn't been a dead mountain lion in the area since November 2014, when a deer hunter shot and killed a large male mountain lion in Bradley County. Officials believe it was the same puma that had been seen wandering through Marion County six weeks prior.  Lab reports indicated that the 2014 mountain lion came from Wyoming and South Dakota's breeding population. Before that, a mountain lion hadn't been killed in the state since 1975.

"Mountain lions are not game animals; just like with other animals that do not have a recognized hunting season, they are illegal to kill," said AGFC Large Carnivore Biologist Myron Means at the time of the 2014 cat's death. "A limited 'self-defense' exception exists in regulation when a person acts 'under a good faith belief that he was protecting himself or other persons from imminent bodily harm or serious injury.'"

Cougars generally keep to themselves, avoiding people at all costs. The AGFC urges the public to report sightings as soon as possible and include evidence that can be verified.

READ MORE: What to Do If You Encounter a Mountain Lion in the Wild