Mountain Lion Or Bobcat? A Lawton Biologist Has The Answer
If you're not up with the story, there were a few photos posted on a few of the Lawton community's Facebook pages that have started an epic debate.
Here's the original sourced Facebook post...
Crazy, right? As you and I talked about, it is crazy to think such a magnificent big cat could wander into the middle of Lawton... but it's not impossible.
So many people have chimed in with their opinions on the post, insisting this is an animal much more common to our area, including inside Lawton city limits... A bobcat, of course!
Seeing bobcats in and around urban areas isn't as unheard of as spotting a wild mountain lion cruising through neighborhoods. It makes logical sense. Plus, in the photo, there is a definite lack of a tail. Since cougars have long tails and bobcats are named for their short little bobbed tails, the evidence is convincing enough but you just can't tell.
While the convenience of having a camera that makes phone calls is awesome these days, they don't always provide the highest quality images. It would take a very trained eye to determine exactly what this kitty is.
In a stroke of luck, we have some fine biologists in Southwest Oklahoma. Mainly the staff at Medicine Park Aquarium. Biologist Nichole Brown and the staff were super happy to assist in identifying this creature for us, so I sent an email with a few photos to see what they thought.
Because you can't see a tail, it's totally understandable conclusions would be drawn that this is a bobcat. The very slight patterning on the legs lends to this theory also as pointed out by so many amatuer-wildlife enthusiasts on Facebook, but they're wrong.
This is no bobcat.
In a second photo where this beast was looking up towards the camera, it was unmistakable and factual, this is a legit mountain lion. A cougar, panther, puma, catamount, etc...
The color is right, the size is right, and the face is right. 100%, no doubt about it, in the expert opinion of the wildlife biologists and staff at Medicine Park Aquarium, this is America's lion.
I would love to share this photo with you, but because it exists in the private Grapevine, it won't allow me to share it because it's, well, private. If you want to see it, join the page. It's so easy.
But what about the tail!?!
Not being able to see the tail doesn't mean it has a bobbed tail. It could have it wrapped around its hindquarters for all we know. Maybe it's laying on it, cooling it off in the water on such a hot day. As blood vessels are close to the skin in the tail, it makes sense.
And what about the patterning!?!
I'm with you on this. I had the same thought when I looked at it the first time, but when I Googled a bunch of photos of mountain lions, this patterning is quite common. So is the coloring on the ears - example further below.
As with any topic humans debate in life, some won't accept the opinions of experts on this. They'll call it "fake news," or whatever catch-phrase we've arrived at to describe differing opinions these days. I, myself, believe the biologist expert because it not only concretes my personal opinion that this is a mountain lion, but because it's the opinion of a certified wildlife biologist expert. Consider it peer-reviewed.
If you don't know the difference between cougars and bobcats, there is a considerable size difference. While bobcats can grow to be the size of medium-sized dogs, a mountain lion is a big cat that can stretch nine feet from nose to tail. Plus, bobcats are overwhelmingly gray whereas mountain lions are overwhelmingly tan.
Since this critter has been identified by a certified wildlife expert biologist, I think it's time we adopt it as a wild pet for all of Lawton. I vote we name it Pothole... because there's nothing more "Lawton" than potholes.
The next time you're in need of something to do while it's too hot outside, you might hop up to the Medicine Park Aquarium. It's affordable and unbelievable that something this epic exists in our own backyard.