Sightings of Mountain Lion Up, But Missouri Officials Say the Cat is All But Gone

April 16, 2006 - Posted at 11:41 a.m. CST

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Michael Rich says he was driving his pickup in

northern Missouri when he caught a glimpse of something in the

distance crossing the road.

The construction worker swears it was a mountain lion.

Since 1994, hundreds of Missourians have reported spotting the

wild cat. But state conservation officials say only eight reports

have been confirmed.

The Missouri Conservation Commission took the mountain lion off

the state's endangered species list earlier this month. Officials

say landowners and livestock producers wanted the state to change

its policy.

Conservation groups say Missouri should have offered more

opportunity for input before taking that step. The public will have

30 days to comment on the change in the animal's endangered status

once it's filed with the secretary of state's office.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)