Mountain Lions In Missouri

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 29, 2010

Conservation Department employees and service to the public. We have had training from mountain lion experts in Wyoming, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Florida.

One important lesson learned in our training is that mountain lions are so secretive that they are rarely "seen" by people. However, physical proof of their existance in these other states is easily found. Our search for hard evidence here in Missouri, such as photos (verified), cougar carcasses, scat with cougar DNA, videos, tracks, etc., has turned up a few, but not many, confirmed mountain lions. Difficult as it may be to obtain, hard evidence is required before we can say, “Yes, we have a confirmed mountain lion.” It is important that we maintain credibility with the public, and it would be irresponsible to make statements about the presence of a large predator like the mountain lion without solid evidence.

We have had only a handful of confirmed mountain lions in Missouri, despite hundreds and hundreds of reports. There have been eight confirmed mountain lions since 1994. One of these was hit by a car near downtown Kansas City in 2002, and another in 2003 near Fulton.

Missing from Missouri is the physical evidence that is left by a viable, breeding population of mountain lions. In the area of every documented population in the U.S., biologists are able to locate numerous tracks, prey kills, scrapes (made when lions scent-mark their territories), and photos, which are often available from the many motion-detecting game cameras that hunters use to monitor trails. Also, frequent mountain lion road-kills turn up, of all ages and of both sexes.

South Dakota estimates they now have a population of 165 mountain lions in the Black Hills, and 40 mountain lion carcasses turned up last year. More than 20 died in vehicle collisions in the last two years alone, despite the area’s relatively low human population and road density. So if we had many mountain lions at all in Missouri, we would almost certainly have more evidence than we do now.

Biologists in Arkansas and Oklahoma have reached the same conclusion as we have after years of searching: They have documented wandering individuals, but no evidence yet of viable populations. The nearest populations are in Texas, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota. New evidence suggests that they are in the process of colonizing parts of western Okalahoma, northwest Nebraska, and western North Dakota.

Some sightings explained

But what about the hundreds

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