A photo of a mutant mountain lion with horns has gone viral on social media after officials from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) posted it online. The cougar’s head has a fairly hideous looking growth sprouting from the back of its skull, so many on social media thought it might be a hoax. It’s not, but experts are still not 100 percent sure why the mutated cougar developed the teeth-like horns. While the official theories do make sense, some on social media wonder if it’s possible that Idaho’s fallout from Nevada nuclear weapons testing is somehow linked to the bizarre creature.
In a related report by the Inquisitr, a hunter in Preston, Idaho, was the person who tracked down the mountain lion after the cat reportedly attacked a dog. The hunter killed the mountain lion on December 30, and based upon state law, the hunter brought the mountain cat to a IDFG station to be checked (the state tracks the ages of mountain lions killed by hunting).
“A hunter brought it in, and there was something extra,” said IDFG spokesperson Jennifer Jackson. “We haven’t seen anything like this in our region. In the process of harvesting the animal we had an officer check it, and we determined something really interesting was going on.”
The hunter was allow to take the prize home, but IDFG officials sent photos of the deformed mountain lion out to various vetenerians and biologists in order to figure out how it happened.
“It has all of us scratching our heads. It’s a bizarre situation and a bizarre photo,” said biologist Zach Lockyer.
The biologist explains that there are multiple theories which can explained the cougar with horns. The first is that the deformity is an oddly healed injury of the jawline, but this seems unlikely based upon the available photos. The second going theory is that the teeth-like horns are the remnants of a conjoined twin absorbed by the surviving cougar in the womb. The third explanation is that the growth is a teratoma, a tumor which can grow notable features like hair and teeth.
— CarnivoreScience (@CarnivoreSci) January 9, 2016
Officials or experts have not raised the possibility of this particular idea, but some on social media believe it’s possible that Idaho’s nuclear weapons testing history may be involved. During the 1950s, researchers working for the U.S. Federal government exploded 90 bombs above a desert about 500 miles to the south in Nevada. The radioactive fallout from these nuclear explosions fell downwind into Idaho, Utah, Montana, New York, and other states.
Many years later, Idahoans said they were never warned that the white dust which drifted into the state was radioactive.
“It looked like frost. Nobody ever told us there was any danger,” said Don Garmer, a dairy farmer who developed liver cancer.
According to the Spokesman Review, a 1997 National Cancer Institute study showed that Idaho caught some of the worst of the nuclear fallout because the “U.S. Atomic Energy Commission deliberately sent north to avoid exposing Los Angeles and other big cities.” Don’s wife, Sheri, apparently was exposed to an estimated 75 rads of radiation, the equivalent of 10,000 chest X-rays.
To put these reports into perspective, Challis, Idaho, was impacted the greatest, and it’s about 220 miles north west of Preston. According to the New York Times, the main fear was that the radioactive fallout would increase cancer rates in humans, but the statistics were “confusing.”
“Studies of these counties show fatal cancers at or below the state average, but when considering fatal and nonfatal cancers together, they are higher than the state average. Statewide, Idaho’s death toll from all cancers is lower than the national rate. And scientists caution that because of Idaho’s small population, such statistics are easily distorted.”
Presuming that the radioactive fallout did impact the environment where the cougar lived, could a nuclear bomb explain the photo of the mountain lion with horns? Experts plan on investigating to determine the exact cause, but a 2010 study by a researcher of the University of South Alabama concluded the “rates of conjoined twins and teratomas also seem to be elevated” in humans from the Chernobyl fallout. Considering those medical conditions happen to be the two leading explanations for the deformed mountain lion photo, it will be interesting to see what the experts discover.
[Image via Shutterstock]