were historically found nearly transcontinentally, including throughout Kansas. The last documented wild cougar (also referred to as puma, panther, painter, catamount, or mountain lion) in Kansas was shot in Ellis County in 1904. The current distribution of cougars in the Midwest is not well understood. After many decades of absence, cougars have reappeared, even relatively frequently, in several nearby states. Seven cougars have been confirmed in Missouri since 1994, including one that was killed just miles from Kansas. Nebraska has had 14 confirmed cougars since 1991, including multiple animals that most likely originated from the Black Hills population in South Dakota. Oklahoma has confirmed suspected wild individuals in and near the Panhandle, most likely from the recognized Colorado-New Mexico population – which occurs within 75 miles of Southwest Kansas. But more recently (May, 2004), a cougar that had been radio-collared in South Dakota and had dispersed from the Black Hills population, was killed by a train in Oklahoma 40 miles south of Arkansas City, KS. Iowa, Arkansas, and Illinois have also had recent confirmations. When animals have been obtained in many of the instances mentioned above, they have most often been young males – indicating dispersing individuals but not necessarily reproducing populations within those states. The susceptibility of these young animals to roadkill or other forms of mortality indicates that when cougars do first reappear in a state, these animals will be documented prior to the establishment of a reproducing population. Despite numerous reports of cougars in Kansas, a suspected wild specimen has not been documented in recent times.
Gray wolves, or timber wolves as they are often recognized, historically ranged thoughout Kansas with the possible exception of the Southeast corner, and were considered common in the state. They were the first of these three species to be extirpated from Kansas (in the mid-1800's) and have the most distant established wild populations. They appear the least likely of these three species to reinhabit the state. However, gray wolf populations have exceeded their numerical recovery goals as set forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for both the Eastern (Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, etc) and Western (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, etc) Distinct Population Segments (DPSs), and were reclassified from endangered to threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act in April, 2003. At that time, the USFWS announced plans to begin work on proposals to delist both populations, and expects to actually make these proposals in the "foreseeable future." With gray wolf recovery efforts in the Northern states having been so successful, the possibility of occasional immigration of individual animals into Kansas should not be completely dismissed. In fact, in at least four incidences since October 2001, dispersing individuals have shown up far from recognized gray wolf range, including once each in Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska and Indiana. In each of these cases, the wolves were known to have dispersed hundreds of miles from packs in Michigan, Wisconsin, or Minnesota.