Idaho wildlife experts: Photo of deformed mountain lion is not a fake

PRESTON, Idaho — An abnormal growth of teeth, hair and whiskers on the forehead of a yearling mountain lion has some local biologists intrigued and others skeptical.

“A hunter brought it in, and there was something extra,” Idaho Fish and Game Region 5 spokeswoman Jennifer Jackson told EastIdahoNews.com. “We haven’t seen anything like this in our region.”

The young female was killed Dec. 30 in Franklin County, about 8 miles southwest of Preston by an Idaho hunter. As per state law, the hunter brought his kill to IDFG to be checked. IDFG officers are required to remove a tooth from harvested mountain lions to gather data on their ages, Jackson said.

An abnormal growth of teeth, hair and whiskers on the forehead of a yearling mountain lion has some local biologists intrigued and others skeptical. - CNN

An abnormal growth of teeth, hair and whiskers on the forehead of a yearling mountain lion has some local biologists intrigued and others skeptical. – CNN

“In the process of harvesting the animal we had an officer check it, and we determined something really interesting was going on,” Jackson said.

The Preston conservation officer described the abnormality as a growth of muscle and dense tissue with several teeth, hair and whiskers growing out of it. He photographed the animal, and the hunter took the carcass home, apparently to be taken to a taxidermist, Jackson said.

EastIdahoNews.com sent the photo to several biologists at east Idaho universities who suggested the photo might be a fake. However, IDFG officials confirmed the animal had been physically handled and examined by the conservation officer.

But the animal was not examined by veterinarians or biologists. Regional IDFG biologists said it’s impossible to determine the exact cause of the deformity based solely on visual observations of a photo.

But the biologists do have some theories.

Jackson said the mass of teeth, hair and whiskers could be a conjoined twin that stopped developing and embedded itself on the lion while in the womb.

Another theory, which officials say is more likely, is that the growth is a teratoma — a rare tumor that contains extremities like teeth and hair.

EastIdahoNews.com reached out to the Wildlife Health Forensic Laboratory in Boise for more information about the condition.

The state wildlife veterinarian was unavailable, but laboratory staffers told EastIdahoNews.com that when animals are developing in utero, an identical twin can fuse to a body and create a mass of cells. That mass of cells — the teratoma — can sometimes develop teeth, hair, bone and skin. As animals get older, the mass typically gets larger.

Biologists are attempting to contact the hunter so they can take a closer look at the carcass.

“Our biologists didn’t get to examine it, and we’re interested in looking at this one a bit closer,” Jackson said.

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23 comments

  • Jill Richardson

    I am very intrigued by this story. Due to this situation and the interest of this story that has peaked curiosity, Hopefully the gentleman who killed this mountain lion will allow biologists to take a close look and examine it before he takes it to a taxidermist.
    Interested in the outcome of this story. JR

  • Neil Henry

    MYSTERY? …Preston’s a mere 100 miles from Idaho Falls, where the oldest U.S. plutonium dump is located!

  • David

    Teratomas are rare but usually internal tumors, that resemble fully formed body parts, usually teeth, hair. Armed Forces Insitute of Pathology had some great examples when I went to specialty training at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

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  • Lisa

    Poor creature, with deformity and was able to survive, when there is deformity in baby animal, usually the mother kill them, but this one grow up to adult life, it a pity it was killed.

  • Barry Benedict

    Sometimes it makes my head hurt
    One explanation is that it’s a teratoma but the other explanation and most likely one is that it’s a teratoma.
    I’m certainly glad they cleared THAT up.

  • Raymond Lengvarsky

    sounds like the mountain lion had a rare type of tumor called a teratoma, These very weird tumors also are seen in other animals, including man. They have not only can contain muscle tissue, hair and teeth, but have been known to also contain, eyeballs, organs, as well as nerve and brain tissue, and those ones have even been known to react to touch when removed. In 2007 a Japanese woman had a teratoma removed that contained a tiny deformed head, a fully formed eyeball, hair, and several internal organs. These can occur in any area of the body. And fortunately. you don’t have to worry about developing one, as this type of tumor is congenital, that is you are born with it. the term teratoma comes from Greek, and literally means “monster tumor” For more information go to youtube and in the search bar enter monsters inside me teratomas.

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