Mountain Lions in Iowa

Woke up this morning expecting frost.  Weather has been cooling down here in Iowa at a rapid rate these past few days.  It was chilly, though no visible frost was around.

Graduating from Iowa State University, one would have hoped every student explores the local parks, trails and adventure spots.  Somehow, during my four exciting, collegiate years at ISU, I never hiked, only drove, inside Ledges State Park south of Boone, Iowa.

Am in Ames again for two days and on today’s docket was to accomplish just that.  Hike in Ledges.  Used ‘Hiking Iowa Guide Book by Elizabeth Corcoran Hill‘ as a reference and laced up my hiking boots around 8:10 this morning.

The prairie inside the park is breathtaking.  If you haven’t ever experienced an Iowa Tallgrass prairie, you should.  Enjoy the colors of Big and Little Blue Stem enveloping Black Eyed Susan’s.  The grass was wet, the sun just coming over the trees hadn’t quite dried away last nights dew.  The wind was soft, a slight breeze, cool, reminding us that Fall is here.  Goldfinches, the Iowa state bird, were chirping, flying, diving, in and out of the grass, totally at peace.

I was hiking fast, trying to get my body to warm up.  Entered into the woods and was startled by deer jumping up.  You could tell they weren’t terrified, as they made a few leaps and bounds only to stop, look back and wag their small white tails.

I kept on, hiking down the hill side and down to the river.  After a gazing around a bit, enjoying the spectacular serenity of land at peace, I made my way back up the, acorn-covered, dirt trail in the woods and re-entered the prairie.  The prairie path is mowed, kept short so humans don’t get lost!

My curiosity was still on a high.  I’d only been hiking for 1.5 hours.  When I came upon another trail leading into the woods I turned that way.  “Why not?”  Shortly after meandering through shrubs, my attention was caught by movement.  Ahead, 25 yards away, a mountain lion got up, made a few leaps over down trees and disappeared behind brush.  Goosebumps ran over my body.  I blinked.  “Did I just see a mountain lion in Iowa?”  Yes, yes I did.  And it was big!

Photo credit Jim and Jamie Dutcher - National Geographic

Curosity fired.  “Follow it and get a closer view at this beautiful animal.”  I took 10 steps.  Rationality fired.  “Hailee, mountain lions are not to be bothered, you are only armed with a small pocket knife, if it’s hungry, you will lose the battle, leave it be.”

Rationality won.  I backed up slowly and got out of the woods.  My heartrate was at its’ max.  Adrenaline pumping.  “Did I really just see that?  Is there really mountain lion’s in Iowa?  Is anyone ever going to believe me?”

It wasn’t far back to my car.  Pulled out the hiking book and called Ledges State Park’s office.  Left a message “Hi, my name is Hailee.  I’m a hiker that was just in Ledges and am not sure if you track mountain lion sightings but I just saw one.  Spotted in the woods, just past the picnic area, across the footbridge and on the first trail into the woods, 50 yards in.  If you need more details, feel free to call me.”

They did, two hours later and he asked “how sure are you it was a mountain lion?”  My response “100%”

Hike more.  See cool things.  Experience this wild-wonderful-world we live in!


About haileerustad

I love everything. I do things differently. Tending to avoid conformity. Accepting unknown adventure whenever its presented. My mission is to live, let life flow through me with endless energy. Exciting and empowering others to find their natural happiness. As life is, all perception.
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5 Responses to Mountain Lions in Iowa

  1. Jocelyn/Zuni says:


    I was driving along a back road in Vermont one day about 6 or 7 years ago and I saw a very large cat standing in the middle of the road ahead of me. I came to a complete stop. It was a catamount!! He and I locked gazes for a few seconds before he bounded up a bank and into the woods. My camera was sitting on the seat next to me but it happened so quickly, there was no way I would have gotten a photo.

    My irrational moment was when I started to drive down the road again and then turned around to go back to the spot I saw the catamount. There was, of course, NO WAY he was going to be lingering around but I had to go back and look. Nope. Nothing. I was still stunned. I continuined on my way thinking about this massive cat when a domestic cat runs across the road in front of me. OH MY GOD. There was no question in my mind what I saw was a catamount. This tiny little pet kitty made that extremely clear.

    I went back to my office, jumped on the computer and began to scan photos of all the cats….no, no, no…YES! A catamount. I called Vermont Fish and Game and left a message….also wondering if anyone was going to believe me. They called back when I wasn’t around and left a similar message…are you sure?…we’d like to hear what you saw…

    I had so many people tell me we don’t have catamounts in Vermont and I must have seen something else that I never called Fish and Game back. But others have seen them too. Fish and Game is still in doubt that any of us know what we really saw.

    To this day I’m convinced it was a catamount. And…I’ve said before…I feel honored to have seen one in a place where there are none 😉
    Welcome to the club!!

    TimmyG’s friend Jocelyn/Zuni Bear in Vermont~

  2. Jocelyn/Zuni says:

    The other cool thing about this post Hailee is the timing of it. A universe thing….

    Ive been sitting here in my crooked little Vermont house working on a hand crafted, needle felted Catamount that is to be presented as a gift to a 21 year staff member of the Green Mountain Club this weekend. (I wish I could post a photo on your blog of the catamount!)

    This devoted GMC staff member wrote an article for the Long Trail News (GMC publication) on the extinction of the Eastern Cougar.

    Your post appeared as I sat here thinking about my fortunate sighting…while finishing the details of the felted catamount.

    I hope one day you and I will have the opportunity to meet. The universe does indeed work in mysterious ways. All my best to you~

    • haileerustad says:

      The way this world works is fantastic and yes, mysterious. Agree with you Zuni, hope to one day meet you. Feel like I already have with what Tim has shared with me. Hope you finished up the Catamount and have found yourself in wonder outside. Enjoy your weekend, Hailee

  3. DM says:

    What a rush that would have been. We live in Eastern Iowa, and on occasion have also heard sightings of mountain lions in our area, especially near the Maquoketa river. I’ve been wanting to experience some tall grass prairie now for a couple of years..your blog post has put enough fire under me now to seek some out. DM

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