GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- One thing's for sure: People have a fascination with mountain lions.
Sightings, whether confirmed or hearsay, always get people talking.
"It definitely stirs up some local discussion," said Jeb Williams, wildlife chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck.
That has been readily apparent in recent weeks, starting in mid-November with the mountain lion that showed up on two different trail cameras a landowner had set on his property near Devils Lake.
The buzz continued in December, when a hunter legally shot and killed a mountain lion northwest of Hillsboro, N.D., and a few days later, when a trapper came across a mountain lion in a snare near Lisbon, N.D., in the southeast part of the state.
The mountain lion died in the snare, and the trapper turned the cat, a male weighing about 150 pounds, over to Game and Fish as required because the department limits the legal take to hunting and not trapping.
The cat will be utilized for department educational programs, Williams said.
Game and Fish has offered a mountain lion season since 2005, Williams said. The department closed the late season in Zone 1, the part of western North Dakota that encompasses the prime mountain lion range, on Friday, Dec. 29. The late-season limit of seven cats or three females prompted the closure when the third female was shot.
A conditional season in Zone 1 opened Thursday for hunters to pursue the additional two cats that weren't taken during the early season. The early harvest limit in Zone 1 was eight, and hunters shot only six cats, Game and Fish said.