Never, perhaps, was that more apparent than in December 2004 and January 2005. A young male mountain lion spotted Dec. 5, 2004 near Turtle River State Park west of Grand Forks had a radio collar, fitted near the Black Hills as part of a South Dakota study tracking the movement of juvenile cats.
According to Herald archives, a pilot for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department picked up the cat's signal Dec. 15, 2004 near Manvel, N.D., and again a week later south of Karlstad, Minn.
In early January 2005, a Minnesota DNR pilot flying an aerial deer survey picked up the cat's signal in a remote part of the Roseau River Wildlife Management Area.
That mountain lion eventually crossed into Manitoba, and that was the last anyone heard of it.
The young cat by that time had traveled more than 600 miles from where it was collared.
Another mountain lion collared as part of the same study was killed by a train in Oklahoma, more than 600 miles in the opposite direction.
Other recent sightings include a cat killed in September 2015 by a motorist near Lawton, N.D., a 114-pound male mountain lion hit and killed by a vehicle near Bemidji in September 2009 that likely came from western North Dakota and a cat treed and photographed in 2013 by a coyote hunter hunting with hounds south of Osakis, Minn.
Whether the recent increase in mountain lion reports from eastern North Dakota is coincidence or part of a trend is difficult to say, Williams said.
"One thing I've learned about mountain lions in North Dakota is to never say never," he said. "Is there a small portion of habitat in the eastern part of the state in various places that you could see a mountain lion getting comfortable in? I think the answer is probably yes on that.
"But is there enough mountain lion habitat in the eastern part of the state to sustain mountain lions for a period of time? I probably would question that."
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