Mountain Lion Sighting Confirmed in South-central Missouri
Last week, the Missouri Department of Conservation received an emailed snapshot, dated July 29th, of a mountain lion roaming around a landowner’s property in south-central Missouri. The MDC says this mountain lion sighting, and others, have been confirmed in our area, and are likely to continue. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark shares tips on what you should do if you ever come across one.
According to a press release from the MDC, biologists have learned that over time, mountain lions, also called cougars, pumas and panthers, have dispersed from other states to just west of Missouri. Since 1994, about 18 free-living mountain lions have been confirmed in the state, but there is no evidence of a reproducing population here. MDC Biologist Jeff Beringer is a member of the mountain lion response team and helped confirm that the latest sighting in Shannon County was legitimate.
“When I saw it in that email account, I said yeah that’s a mountain lion, and we made an attempt to verify it. The way we verified it was visiting the site and showing, making sure that the photograph was actually taken at the site. There have been a few instances on the internet where people say a picture has been taken different places and it hasn’t.”
The department looks for evidence like hair, scat, footprints, or a dead lion or prey around the vicinity of the report. Beringer says the department gets numerous tips every week about mountain lion activity, so physical evidence is really important in confirming a sighting.
“I would say I probably get 10-20 reports every week. I think many of those are mistaken identities. We can’t verify a mountain lion unless we have something to go on like a track, a photograph, or something that’s solid.”
According to the MDC, mountain lions are generally shy of humans and pose little danger to people, even in states with thriving cat populations.
“They most generally will run from somebody or run up a tree to try to get away from them. They’re not aggressive like some folks think. I think there’s been like one person killed by a mountain lion every ten years, so they are truly rare events.”
However, just because sightings and attacks are uncommon, people do need to be aware that they’re out there. Beringer gives a few tips on how to act if you come across one.
“If you have a cat that’s not running away from you, then you want to scare it away. Make yourself look big, throw stuff at it, yell at it. You know, that’s the case with most wildlife and any animal that’s not acting normally. You want to shoo them away and then slowly get to another spot.”
You can contact the department about mountain lion sightings by going to its website: missouriconservation.org.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.
You can see a picture of the mountain lion that was spotted in Shannon County by going to our website: ksmu.org.