Ryan Ritter of Atoka couldn’t believe what he was seeing on New Year’s Day when he looked at the photos from his new trail camera. Not only were there pictures of numerous deer and turkey, but the trail camera also had captured five photos of a mountain lion on two consecutive mornings.
"I was very shocked to see that on my camera,” said Ritter, who admits he always has been skeptical about mountain lion sightings in the past. "You hear a lot of stories all the time,” said Ritter, owner of Ritter Express Pharmacy in Atoka. "I am a believer now. Until those pictures I would have argued with anybody we didn’t have any resident mountain lions, but obviously we do.” The mountain lion photographs were taken between 5 and 6 a.m. on Dec. 22 and 23. State wildlife officials say it’s one of the rare instances of a confirmed sighting of a mountain lion in Oklahoma. "We know we’ve got them, but we don’t know where they are at or how many,” said Alan Peoples, chief of the wildlife division for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It’s kind of hard to monitor something so secretive and so rare as a mountain lion.” Ritter, who is an avid outdoorsman, manages 2,500 acres of family-owned land in southeastern Atoka County near the Muddy Boggy River for hunting and trapping. He speculates the mountain lion must have been traveling the river bottom and followed deer and turkey scent to his corn feeder, where the trail camera was located. Ritter, whose father was a state wildlife commissioner in the 1990s, said his family has owned that secluded piece of property since 1993 and never before detected any signs of a mountain lion. The subject of mountain lions in Oklahoma is a hotly debated topic. The Wildlife Department receives two or three reports of mountain lion sightings every month, but rarely can they be confirmed, Peoples said. Each year, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry’s wildlife services division investigates between 100 and 150 reported cases of mountain lions killing livestock, said Jack Carson, agency spokesman. Only one time could it be confirmed that a mountain lion was indeed the culprit. Know It: Outdoor/Recreation Out There: Oklahoma mountain lion sighting worth monitoring