Confirmed mountain sightings reach a total of 32

Despite more than 20 confirmed sightings of mountain lions in the past two years, the Missouri Department of Conservation says there is still no “confirmed” breeding population in the state

The number of mountain lions being sighted inside the state’s boundaries has escalated so rapidly during the past two years, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is no longer sending out press releases when a new sighting occurs. Still on its website, the MDC persists in saying there is no “confirmed breeding population” of the big cats in the state.

The number of mountain lions being sighted inside the state’s boundaries has escalated so rapidly during the past two years, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is no longer sending out press releases when a new sighting occurs. Still on its website, the MDC persists in saying there is no “confirmed breeding population” of the big cats in the state.

The number of mountain lions being sighted inside the state’s boundaries has escalated so rapidly during the past two years, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is no longer sending out press releases when a new sighting occurs. Still on its website, the MDC persists in saying there is no “confirmed breeding population” of the big cats in the state.

Total number of confirmed mountain lion reports since 1994 – 32

Listed below are all the documented sightings of mountain lions in Missouri since a hunter killed the last cat native to the state in 1927, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). All the sightings listed below have been confirmed by the MDC.

Sept. 2012 — Shannon County

Photograph taken by motion-activated game camera.

September 2012 — Shannon County (separate incident)

Photograph was taken by a landowner's motion-activated game camera.

April 2012 — Grundy County

Photograph taken by motion-activated game camera.

April 2012 — Grundy County (separate incident)

Photograph was taken by a landowner's motion-activated game camera.

January 2012 — Reynolds County

Photograph taken by motion-activated game camera.

January 2012 — Reynolds County (separate incident)

Landowner caught a live in cage-type game trap.

September 2011 — Wayne County

Photograph of paw print taken by MDC staff.

September 2011 — Reynolds County

Landowner took two photographs.

September 2011 — Shannon County

Photograph taken by a motion-activated game camera.

September 2011 — Shannon County
(believed to be same animal as above)

Photograph taken by a motion-activated game camera.

September 2011 — Texas County

Sub adult male shot by landowner.

August 2011 — Carter County

Eyewitness report supplemented by hair samples.

August 2011 — Oregon County

Photograph taken by motion-activated game camera.

July 2011 — Gasconade County

Eyewitness report supplemented by hair samples.

July 2011 — Shannon County

Photograph taken by motion-activated game camera.

May 2011 — Macon County

Photos of tracks in muddy creek bed.

March 2011 — Oregon County

Citizen saw mountain lion jump fence. Supplemented by hair samples.

January 2011 — Macon County

Sub adult male shot by coyote hunters.

January 2011 — St. Louis County

Photo taken by motion-activated game camera.

January 2011 — Ray County

Sub adult male treed and shot by raccoon hunters.

December 2010 — Linn County

Photo taken by motion-activated game camera.

November 2010 — Platte County

Photo taken by landowner.

December 2006 — Livingston County

Photo taken by motion-activated game camera.

November 2006 — Shannon County

Tracks and deer carcass characteristic of a mountain lion kill found.

August 2003 — Callaway County

Road kill of approximate 1-1/2-year-old male.

October 2002 — Clay County

Road kill of approximate 2 to 3-year-old male.

December 2001 — Pulaski County

Photograph taken by motion-activated game camera.

December 2000 — Lewis County

Deer hunter took video from a tree stand.

January 1999 — Texas County

Adult lion treed by hunting dogs. Tracks and two deer carcasses found nearby.

January 1997 — Christian County

Video taken by property owner.

November 1996 — Reynolds County

Video taken by MDC agent.

December 1994 — Carter County

Adult female treed and shot by hunters. Carcass never recovered, but photo of animal on truck tailgate obtained. In Nov. 1998, a deer hunter found a pelt believed to be of same animal.

Information is courtesy of the MDC website.

According to the MDC website, Jeff Beringer, an MDC biologist who studies mountain lions, says “He feels comfortable saying that Missouri does not have a permanent, self-sustaining breeding population of mountain lions today. All the evidence indicates that we have a few individuals wandering into Missouri from states that do have established populations. However, the recent uptick in sightings may be a hint of things to come.”

According to the MDC website, the most recent confirmed mountain lion sightings took place in September at two separate locations in Shannon County. Those two sighting brings to 32 the total number of confirmed sightings in the state since 1994 with 22 of those sightings occurring since November 2010.

Although many of the sightings have taken place in heavily forested areas, others have been confirmed in populated regions. For instance, the MDC announced in January 2011, that a photo had been taken of a young adult mountain lion in western St. Louis County and during that same month two of the large cats were shot and killed in Macon County and a third was shot and killed by a raccoon hunter in Ray County.

Many of the confirmed sightings were the result of photos taken by motion activated game cameras, however others were confirmed when the MDC’s Mountain Lion Response Team investigated reports from individuals who had found an animal’s footprints, others who had located hair samples, a hunter who caught a mountain in a game trap, and even two instances when the big cats were hit by automobiles. One of those car/mountain lion accidents took place on U.S. Highway 54 just outside of Fulton in Callaway County and the other took place on Interstate 35 in Kansas City.

Despite the fact that the MDC says the chances of anyone come face to face with a mountain lion in the state, they do post a warning on their website telling you how to act if an encounter occurs.

According to Dr. E. Lee Fitzhugh of the University of California, if a mountain lion is far way and moving away, it is attempting to be secretive and poses little danger to humans, however the person making the sighting should make sure children are kept close until the animal is gone.

If a cat is more than 100 yards away and moving away from people it is showing “indifference” and the risk to humans is “slight.” However, the person should avoid rapid movement, loud or excited talk and again keep children within sight.

If the animal is more than 50 yards away, has its ears up and is intently watching the humans, it is showing “curiosity” and poses a “slight risk” to adults but more serious risk to children. Small children should be held in the adult’s arms and the adult should not turn their back to the animal. The adult should assume a standing position and, if possible, elevate themselves on some object that will make them taller than the lion. Also the adult should use sticks, rocks or other weapons and use an aggressive posture to scare the animal. However, if the lion looks away from the adult, sits or grooms itself it is not in an aggressive mood and the individual can move away slowly while keeping wary an eye on the animal.

If the cat is closer than 50 yards and is staring intently at a human or making an attempt to hide the risk of attack is “substantial” and the person should place any small children behind them. Move to a safer location if possible, but do not run. Raise their hands above their head and use other objects to make themselves appear as tall as possible. And prepare to defend themselves.

If a lion is perched in a tree the risk of attack is “significant” and small children must be protected immediately.

Anytime a mountain lion is staring intently, crouching or moving slowly toward an individual the risk of attack is “serious” and immediate steps must be taken for self-protection.

If one of the large cats is crouching, twitching its tail, staring intently, crouching low, has its ears erect or its head up the threat of attack must be considered “grave” and the individual must use all weapons available to protect themselves. Obviously a gun or other weapon is most effective, so long as the individual takes careful aim, because a wounded animal may be even more dangerous. Pepper spray may also work if the animal is downwind and the spray can be aimed at its eyes. But whatever weapon is available should be employed.

Finally if a mountain lion is turned so its fur side is forward, its tail is twitching, its ears are up and its body and head are close to the ground or its rear legs are “treading up and down” the threat of attack is “extreme” and the individual should make loud noises, fight back, use any weapon including rocks, sticks or other hard objects to hit the animal. If no weapon is available run toward the cat with arms extended above the head and make as much noise as possible, but stop before you are within striking distance of its paws. Aggressive behavior on your part may still deter an attack. However, avoid any position that places you below the lion and do not turn your back on it.

The only large cat that is native to the Americas, mountain lions are also called pumas, cougars, painters and panthers. Fully-grown female mountain lions weigh between 80 and 110 pounds with fully-grown males weighing between 100 and 150 pounds. Much larger than bobcats, mountain lions have short, tawny colored fur and a long tail, where bob cats are usually a light brown color with darker spots and very short, or bobbed, tails. Mountain lions feed mainly on deer, but will prey on smaller animals when necessary. Although mountain lions are generally shy creatures that stay away as far away from humans as possible, they have been known to attack domestic livestock when other prey is scarce.

Although mountain lions are a protected species under Missouri law, an individual may kill one of the large cats if they feel personally threatened or if they believe their domestic livestock is in imminent danger. In both instances where hunters recently killed a mountain lion in Missouri, the MDC ruled that the individual was justified in doing so.

If you believe you have seen a mountain lion or spotted a sign that one has been present immediately notify the MDC’s Mountain Lion Response Team by contacting:

• Jeff Beringer, Resource Scientist
1110 South College Avenue, Columbia, MO 65201
573-882-9909, ext. 3211

• Rex Martensen, Private Lands Supervisor,
MDC Central Office,
P.O. Box 180
Jefferson City, MO 65102
573-522-4115, ext. 3147.

• Shawn Gruber, Wildlife Programs Supervisor,
MDC Central Office,
P.O. Box 180
Jefferson City, MO 65102
573-522-4115, ext. 3262.

Or by calling your local MDC field office. To learn more about mountain lions in Missouri log onto the MDC website at www.mdc.mo.gov.

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