Iowa Nature January 21, 2019
These 6 Out-Of-Place Creatures Have Been Spotted In Iowa And You’ll Want To Steer Clear
We tend to be very familiar with our Iowa wildlife. Iowans love to spot eagles in the winter, hunt deer in the fall, and fish all summer long. However, even the most seasoned wildlife enthusiast may be surprised to know that over the last few years, Iowa has had a handful of unique visitors. These critters don’t typically call Iowa home, but they’ve been getting more and more comfortable in Iowa, and you might want to keep an eye out when you’re out hiking.
1. Black Bears
Black bears have been spotted in Iowa more and more frequently over the last several years. They thrive in the wooded areas near the Mississippi River, and have been slowly expanding their territory southward. Iowa's wildlife experts believe black bears may have become comfortable enough to begin breeding in the Hawkeye state, but the population is still low - for now.
2. Mountain Lions
Mountain Lions have established permanent homes as far south as Nebraska in the Midwest, but they're known to be great wanderers. Midwestern lions have been spotted as far east as Connecticut, so it's reasonable to expect a few to wander around Iowa when they get the urge to travel. In recent years, there have been a few lions hunted down or spotted by trappers. These elusive creatures are some of the strongest predators in the country, but luckily, they tend to avoid human contact.
Moose may not seem dangerous - until you're standing 15 feet from a bull with horns that are ten feet wide. Most Iowans will never see a moose out here, but they've been spotted in our wooded areas in recently years. One bull moose was tracked by Iowa's Department of Natural Resources as it made its way down south through the state in 2015. While these guys aren't flighty, they're pretty easy to spot, and you've just got to hope you don't find one in your headlights.
Bobcats were once critically endangered in Iowa, but they have made quite the comeback. In fact, bobcats have gotten so comfortable in the Iowa wilderness that they've established breeding pairs, and the population is growing quickly. Limited hunting permits have recently been issued, and chances are, population control measures will increase in coming years.
5. Gray wolves
Wolfpacks have established territory as far south as Beloit, Wisconsin, so it's not surprising to hear they've been spotted in Iowa, too. While it's unlikely that breeding pairs have made permanent homes in Illinois or Iowa yet, it's becoming more and more common for wildlife trappers, hunters, and enthusiasts to spot signs of wolves in Iowa. Wolves tend to be elusive and secretive, and there's a good chance there are plenty in the Iowa wilderness that have yet to be noticed.
6. Bull sharks
Maybe bull sharks haven't technically been spotted
in Iowa, but fishermen have pulled them out of the Mississippi River on the Illinois side. Watch yourself when you swim in the backwaters this summer - with water temperatures getting warmer, their territory is certainly expanding.
What sorts of Iowa wildlife have you spotted recently? Do you know anyone who’s caught a lion on their trail cams?
For some more interesting wildlife spotting in Iowa, head to the
Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, where you can see elk and bison enjoying their prairie homes.
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