EMINENCE, MO (KAIT) - There have been over 22 confirmed mountain lion spottings in Missouri since 1994; Is this a population boom for an animal no longer thought to be living in Missouri? Or are these just chance encounters with the proliferation of game cameras?
Conservation Officer Brad Hadley says these mountain lions could have moved into his area from as far away as South Dakota. Since March there have been seven confirmed sightings in Texas, Shannon and Oregon counties.
Hadley, "Most of the time the mountain lion investigations that we have to do with will deal with a game camera that has caught a picture of a mountain lion passing through." Since the prices have been lowered on trail cameras these small green boxes are seen throughout the heavily hunted deer woods.
The camera we visited that had caught a lion retreating into the woods was located near a site where the hunter had left minerals and animals had dug a hole which was now filled with water.
Hadley says the cats may have followed the rivers from South Dakota. We were only about a mile or so from the Jacks Fork river and you could see that an animal would have plenty of cover to move along the valley.
Although it was really hard to tell from some of the pictures, Hadley believes that many of these sightings are males that have moved on from breeding groups in other states. He says that as those colonies grew these males left.
Hadley, "That's what we're finding is the most common scenario here. Is we're getting sub-adult males that are dispersing and being captured on trail cameras."
A mountain lion can weigh a couple of hundred pounds and that could be frightening to anyone who encounters one, but human encounters are rare.
Hadley, "They don't want to see you anymore than you want to see them. We've never had any confirmed live stock kills by mountain lions." Mountain lions are protected but Hadley says they have had 2 shot because the person felt threatened by them. Hadley says any mountain lion shooting is investigated and criminal charges could be pressed if the shooter was found to be shooting in any other case but self-defense.
There has been at least one confirmed deer kill which Hadley says is what is supposed to happen, the cat is fending for itself on what nature provides.
For those of you who want to go looking...it was rough getting back into the woods both driving and walking. Any mountain lion would hear you and be gone long before you found it.
Hadley says though they still want sightings reported.
"A picture, scat, deer kill, hair. We can confirm off DNA off hair that's collected off fences so if you have reason to believe that you have seen a mountain lion, I urge you to report it."