Across the world, they're called by many different names. Cougar. Puma. Panther. In America, we call them mountain lions, and they are the big cats of our three connected continents. They have lived and hunted from the frozen wilds of Canada all the way to the tip of Chile in South America, and everywhere else in between.

As the joke goes, for decades Oklahoma State Game Wardens made it a habit of denying Oklahoma's transient population of mountain lions. It would usually start off as some story told in the presence of a warden, "Someone saw a mountain lion the other day..." and the response from the wildlife official was overwhelmingly almost always "There are no mountain lions in Oklahoma." The back and forth was almost a sport before this practice of denial ended.

Since the mid-to-late 1990s, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has elevated to a top-tier department of natural sciences in this country. Wardens now lean heavier to the law enforcement side of the job description, and the research is now mostly left up to the scientists employed by the state. That separation between research and writing as many tickets as possible has Oklahoma finally realizing the true diversity range of our natural state. Mountain lions are real, they live and travel through here, and if you see one, odds are the wardens believe you now.

It was in the third week of October that something still pretty rare happened on this topic. The wildlife service actually "confirmed" the status of a mountain lion being in Oklahoma. Even though they have historically used Oklahoma as a native territory, it's still pretty rare to see these big cats outside of their mostly mountainous home ranges.

There was another recent confirmed sighting a few hundred miles away. This mountain lion was caught on a game camera interacting with a porcupine, proving once again the porcupine might be the ultimate Oklahoma animal.

I've been lucky enough to see one of these beasts in person before. My cousin and I were headed out to hunt for the afternoon the weekend of Thanksgiving one year a decade ago. Rolling through the hills of the Harmon County road our land was located on, we came up out of a gully to see a giant golden cat stretch all the way across that narrow county road. Must have been ten feet from nose to tail. It was as much a fleeting glimpse as you can get. By the time we both realized what it was, it was gone and there was no hope in spotting it through the brush. It's the only time I've ever seen one.

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