A video shows an Iowa hunter seeing a rare Midwestern mountain lion walk past his tree.

A video shows an Iowa hunter seeing a rare Midwestern mountain lion walk past his tree.

Video screenshot courtesy of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.

Mountain lions are a rare sight in the Midwest, but one recently passed an Iowa hunter sitting silently in a tree overhead, video shows.

At first it’s hard to spot a swarthy figure moving low through the trees and foliage, so hidden that a skeptic might argue it’s a bobcat, until it suddenly leaps forward and becomes a great view of the hunter’s camera.

The cougar looks cautiously from side to side and stops in a grassy clearing, motionless as if listening for something amid the background noise of traffic passing by outside the forest.

If it is known to the hunter, it is not shown.

“Don’t even breathe,” one person commented post on social mediashared Oct. 10 by the Madison County Sheriff’s Office

“Hell, he could climb a tree in seconds,” wrote another.

The hunter’s encounter is one of several recent sightings of mountain lions in the Madison County, the sheriff’s office said. The sheriff is next door Warren County also received messages, the report said.

“We do not believe there is any danger to the public as these sightings occurred in remote areas that are not regularly visited,” the Madison County Sheriff’s Office said, adding that it was unclear whether the sightings were of the same mountain lion , or if there is more than one wandering southern Iowa.

Cougars are rare in the Midwest, and Iowa is no exception, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

The last historical record of a mountain lion in Iowa was in 1867, and this account sheds light on how early settlers interacted with the animals: they shot and killed them.

“The pioneers did not see any value in their presence for their own way of life, so mainly the persecution of people led to their deaths,” the agency said.

For generations, cougars appeared to have been wiped out of the state — until the DNR began receiving reports of sightings of the big cats in the mid-1990s, the department said. Since then, the sightings have continued, and while most of them are fake or have no evidence, data from the department shows over 30 mountain lion sightings have been confirmed since 1995.

Mountain lions are not currently protected in Iowa, although the DNR has in the past championed legislative efforts to prevent “indiscriminate killing” of the animals to make it illegal to kill them unless they intend to attack people or livestock.

All the mountain lions seen in Iowa in recent decades are believed to have come from western states like Wyoming, where there are established populations, experts say. There are no established breeding populations in Iowa.

“It is doubtful that the mountain lion will ever have a large presence in Iowa,” according to the DNR. “There is some doubt as to whether Iowa is (actually) good habitat for mountain lions. The tolerance or intolerance of the people will determine whether they can ever gain a foothold in the state.”

Mitchell Willetts is a real-time news reporter covering the central US for McClatchy. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and an outdoor enthusiast who lives in Texas.