In late November a Platte County resident photographed a mountain lion in a tree; then in early January a mountain lion was killed in Ray County by a raccoon hunter. On January 19, MDC staff confirmed a trail camera photo of a mountain lion in West St. Louis County; on January 22 a mountain lion was killed by hunters in Macon County; then on February 16 MDC staff confirmed a trail camera photo of a mountain lion in southern Linn County. These five recent events have opened the floodgates of public inquiry and have Missourians wondering about the true population status of these large cats, why the recent increase in occurrences and how the Wildlife Code addresses mountain lions.
Missouri’s Wildlife Code has always offered mountain lions protection from indiscriminate killing. In 2006, with citizen input, the Department changed the code language to allow citizens a level of assurance that a mountain lion could be killed if it posed a threat to human safety. Additionally the Department has never considered nor has plans to reestablish mountain lions in the state.
Both of the recent mountain lion killings were thoroughly investigated by conservation agents and, based on the details of their findings, it was determined that a reasonable level of threat was demonstrated and charges were not warranted in either case. In a 1994 case, when a mountain lion was shot with no justifiable reason, the hunters were prosecuted and fined. Each situation must be investigated and reviewed on a case-by-case basis and evaluated on its own merit. The Department does not condone the indiscriminate shooting of mountain lions. However, we do acknowledge that landowners, and the public at large, must be afforded the right to protect themselves and their property/livestock under certain circumstances.
Missouri’s mountain lion population was extirpated by the early 1900s as a result of unrestricted harvest, enormous habitat changes and increased human presence across the state. Our first confirmed reappearance of a mountain lion took place in 1994 and since that time, including the five most recent events, our total number of confirmed mountain lions in Missouri stands at 15. These low confirmation numbers are in no way indicative of a population, but they do demonstrate that mountain lions occasionally show up in the state.
Exactly where these individual cats are coming from can be hard to determine. Although we do know that mountain lion populations in other