Conservation news

“Two-faced” cougar raises questions

Photo released by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game showing a mountain lion with an unusual deformity-fully-formed teeth and what appears to be small whiskers were growing out of hard fur-covered tissue on the left side of the animal's forehead.

Photo released by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game showing a mountain lion with an unusual deformity-fully-formed teeth and what appears to be small whiskers were growing out of hard fur-covered tissue on the left side of the animal's forehead.

  • An unusual mountain lion shot in Idaho has spurred questions about its abnormalities.
  • On December 30th a hunter killed a young male mountain lion after it was seen attacking a dog on a property in Weston, Idaho.
  • The kill spurred attention because the the individual had a set of fully-formed teeth and whiskers growing out of the site of its forehead.

An unusual mountain lion shot in Idaho has spurred questions about its abnormalities.

On December 30th a hunter killed a young male mountain lion after it was seen attacking a dog on a property in Weston, Idaho near the Utah border. When the hunter reported the kill to authorities, it became apparent that this was no ordinary mountain lion: the individual had a set of fully-formed teeth and whiskers growing out of the site of its forehead.

The find stumped wildlife officials.

“Idaho Fish and Game cannot definitively explain why this abnormality developed on this mountain lion,” said the agency in a statement. “Biologists from the southeast region of Idaho Fish and Game have never seen anything like this particular deformity before.”

Photo released by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game showing a mountain lion with an unusual deformity-fully-formed teeth and what appears to be small whiskers were growing out of hard fur-covered tissue on the left side of the animal’s forehead

The agency put forth two theories on the cause of the deformity.

“It is possible that the teeth could be the remnants of a conjoined twin that died in the womb and was absorbed into the other fetus. It is also possible that deformity was a teratoma tumor. These kinds of tumors are composed of tissue from which teeth, hair, and even fingers and toes can develop.”

It is unclear how the deformity may have affected the prospects of the mountain lion, which was about a year old. Typically mountain lions hunt deer, wild turkeys, and other small to medium-sized game, although they are known from time-to-time to go after domesticated animals and pets when the occasion arises.

Mountain lions can be legally hunted in Idaho. State law generally limits a hunter to one mountain lion kill per year and requires disclosure of the hunting location, method of “take”, and information about the animal itself.

The mountain lion, which is also known as a cougar or puma, is one of North America’s largest carnivores, weighing up to 200 pounds. The big cat ranges from the tip of South America to Canada.

Correction: 1/14/16 1:30 pm Pacific: the original version of this story stated at the puma was North America’s largest carnivore. In fact, as a reader pointed out, the brown bear is larger. We have corrected the sentence.