It looks like it could be a chimera-like beast from an ancient myth, but this bizarre cougar was actually found among the hunting community of Idaho, United States.
The cougar (Puma concolor), or mountain lion, was shot in Weston, southeast Idaho, last week by an anonymous hunter, the Idaho State Journal reports. A conservation officer who inspected the animal sent a photograph to the Idaho Fish and Game’s Southeast Regional Office in Pocatello, which surprised and confused their staff.
The photograph appears to show horn-like teeth growing out of the hard tissue on the mountain lion's forehead. Idaho Fish and Game passed the image on to their veterinarian colleagues and local wildlife experts to help identify what exactly was going on.
Although there’s no clear consensus among them, they have a few ideas.
Firstly, it could be that it has a teratoma. This is a rare type of tumor that spawns a grotesque growth capable of containing hair, bone, teeth, and even parts of limbs or organs. These tumors are incredibly rare in humans, although there have been a few isolated examples in the animal kingdom among dogs, horses, and other mammals.
Second, it could be the remnants of a “conjoined twin” that possibly died in the womb and was absorbed by the mountain lion.
Lastly, it could be the result of an injury to the cougar’s teeth or jaw, which healed in an unfortunate way. Zach Lockyer, a local wildlife biologist, told Idaho State Journal that this is perhaps the least likely of the possibilities as the image doesn’t appear to show any injury or trauma around the jaw.
“It’s a bizarre situation and a bizarre photo,” Lockyer added. “We may never know why those teeth are there.”
The cougar is still in the hands of the hunter, who plans to have the carcass stuffed and preserved by a taxidermist. However, Idaho Fish and Game hope to carry out a post-mortem and perform X-rays on the mountain lion to help come to a more solid conclusion.