A mountain lion that was legally killed by an unidentified hunter in Idaho has baffled wildlife officials at the Idaho Fish and Games. The big cat was found to have a second set of teeth growing out of the side of its head. According to the Idaho State Journal, the lion was legally shot near Preston on December 30. Biologist Zack Lockyer told the State Journal, “It has all of us scratching our heads.”
Scientists offer some theories
Though scientists could not explain the deformity on the mountain lion’s head, they offered a few theories as to why the animal had fully formed teeth and apparent whiskers on its head. Lockyer said the teeth could be the “remnants of a conjoined twin that died in the womb” and was absorbed by the surviving fetus. It could also be a teratoma tumor. These tumors consist of tissues from which fingers, hair, and teeth can develop.
Idaho Fish and Games said in a press release that biologists in the region had never seen a deformity like this before. Initially, a landowner saw the mountain lion attacking a neighbor’s dog in Weston. The dog suffered some wounds, but it survived. The concern that it could attack again prompted a hunter in the small community to follow the dog into the hills with his hounds and kill it.
Hunter not required to turn in the dead mountain lion
The hunter had a proper license and tag, and he reported the killing to the conservation office as required by law. Mountain lions are pretty common in Idaho. They sometimes come around the edge of towns in winter when their prey move down from the mountains due to colder temperatures. Though this mountain lion with deformed head managed to survive into young adulthood, it is still unclear whether it suffered from the tumor.
The hunter is not legally required to hand over the big cat’s body to the conservation office for further analysis.