A mountain lion hunter in Southeast Idaho successfully harvested one of the Western states’ most iconic predators last week, but upon close inspection of the animal, recognized he has perhaps the most unusual example of the species ever recorded. That’s because the yearling cougar taken near Weston December 30 had a separate set of teeth growing out the side of its forehead!
When the carcass was brought to the local Idaho Department of Fish and Game field office to be checked and to have a tooth removed, according to state regulations, those at the scene were at once intrigued and bewildered by what they saw. A photograph of the strange head feature was sent to regional biologists in Pocatello.
“It has all of us scratching our heads,” regional wildlife biologist Zach Lockyer told the Idaho State Journal. “It’s a bizarre situation and a bizarre photo.”
Though a detailed examination on the lion has not yet taken place, biologists are offering some early theories. The teeth could be the remnants of an extremely rare conjoined twin that died in the womb before the animal was born.
Biologists and veterinarians also suggest the growth could be a teratoma, a rare tumor that may contain hair, teeth and bones. In rare circumstances, a teratoma can also sprout more complex body parts, such as eyes, fingers or toes. Like conjoined twins, teratomas are rare in both humans and animals, but have been documented in canines and horses.
A third theory is that the mountain lion suffered an injury to its jaw and the teeth healed in an unusual way, causing the abnormality. Only a detailed analysis of the carcass along with X-rays may positively identify the cause of the odd growth.
At this time, the name of the hunter who took the unusual feline has not been made public by IDFG, but the agency said it plans to acquire the carcass to perform a detailed inspection before it goes to the taxidermist, where it will ultimately be preserved for posterity.