Mountain Lions In Missouri

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 29, 2010

radio-marked female from Utah that moved more than 830 miles, roaming through parts of Wyoming and Colorado.

This evidence supports the fact that mountain lions do roam and that some of these animals have made it to Missouri. Mountain lions that escape from captivity could be another source of sightings. Nearly 30 Missourians have permits to have mountain lions in captivity.

For now, the official population status of mountain lions in Missouri is extirpated. However, because of their dispersal patterns, mountain lions may occasionally enter the state. Most of them will likely be males, but an occasional female may make it to Missouri. Rumors will continue to abound, so carefully consider the evidence, and be aware that the Department will be diligent to make our discoveries well publicized.

Safety and reporting

The prospect of increasing mountain lion populations in Missouri causes a feeling of alarm for some folks. They cite the quickly growing bobcat population in the Midwest and are concerned that mountain lions could do the same thing if left unchecked. Missouri annually ranks among the top states for the number of cattle raised, and the potential presence of mountain lions causes much concern among producers. There have been no reports of mountain lions attacking people in Missouri, and no evidence of attacks on livestock or pets.

Our Wildlife Code continues to protect mountain lions from indiscriminant shooting, but also allows citizens to protect themselves and their property. It states, “Mountain lions attacking or killing livestock or domestic animals, or attacking human beings, may be killed without prior permission, but the kill must be reported immediately to an agent of the department and the intact mountain lion carcass, including pelt, must be surrendered to the agent within twenty-four (24) hours.”

If you have evidence of a mountain lion, or a sighting, please contact the Missouri Department of Conservation. For regional office phone numbers, please see page 1. If you have physical evidence, you can also e-mail the Mountain Lion Response Team at mountain.lion@mdc.mo.gov.

Characteristics of Mountain Lion vs. Dog Tracks

Mountain Lion (left image)

  1. Claw marks generally absent. If present, they will be sharp and narrow.
  2. Four tear-drop shaped toes, grouped asymmetrically.
  3. Trapezoidal-shaped heel pad.
  4. Three-lobed heel pad with two indentations along rear margin.

Dog (right image)

  1. Toenail prints generally present will be broad and blunt.
  2. Four, round-shaped toes, grouped symmetrically.
  3. Triangular-shaped heel pad.
  4. Heel pad lacks distinct indentations and three-lobed appearance.

Confirmed Instances of Mountain Lions in Missouri

The following instances have been confirmed by the MDC Mountain Lion Response Team. However, the origin of theses animals (i.e. escaped/released captive or pioneer from other state) is unknown.

2003 —August, Callaway County: An approximately 1-year-old male road kill. There were no obvious signs that it was formerly a captive animal. DNA analysis revealed its origin to be North America.

2002 —October, Clay County: A 2- to 3-year-old male road kill. DNA analysis revealed its origin to be North America.

2001 —December, Pulaski County: A photograph was taken by a motion-detecting game camera. After a lengthy evaluation, it was determined that it is likely a small, sub-adult mountain lion.

2000 —December, Lewis County: A video was taken by a deer hunter from a tree stand.

1999 —January, Texas County: An adult-sized lion was treed by a rabbit hunter’s dogs. Tracks in the snow (photos taken) and two deer carcasses characteristic of lion kills were found nearby.

1997 —January, Christian County: A video was taken by a property owner. The animal’s behavior implied it had once been held in captivity.

1996 —November, Reynolds County: A video was taken by a conservation agent of a mountain lion with a deer carcass.

1994—December, Carter County: A small adult female was treed and shot by two raccoon hunters near Peck Ranch CA. The carcass was never recovered, but a photo was obtained of the animal on a truck tailgate. Each hunter was fined $2,000.

In Nov. 1998, a deer hunter found the skinned pelt of a small adult, a female with head and feet attached, near a remote Texas County road. Evidence suggests this is the same animal killed in Carter county.

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