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Mountain Lion Facts

Mountain Lions in Missouri

  • Mountain lion, cougar, puma, panther, painter and catamount are all different names for the same animal (Puma concolor).
  • Although common at the time of European settlement, the last known historical specimen in Missouri was killed in the Bootheel area in 1927.
  • “Black panthers” are not native to North America, but they do exist as melanistic (black color) phases of the leopard (Panthera pardus) found in Africa and Asia and the jaguar (Panthera onca) of Mexico and Central and South America. Throughout its range, no melanistic (black) mountain lion has ever been documented by science.
  • MDC has never stocked mountain lions in Missouri, and it has no plans to do so.
  • Mountain lions are classified as "extirpated" in Missouri, but remain protected under the provisions of the Wildlife Code. However, section 3 CSR 10-4.130 (6) of the Code provides that any mountain lion attacking or killing livestock or domestic animals, or threatening human safety may be killed. Mountain lions killed during the protection of life or property must be reported to MDC immediately and the intact carcass, including pelt, surrendered within 24 hours.
  • In 1996 MDC established a Mountain Lion Response Team (MLRT) with specially trained staff to investigate reports and evidence of mountain lions.
  • The MLRT has investigated hundreds of mountain lion reports. Animals reported as mountain lions include house cats, bobcats, red foxes, coyotes, black and yellow Labrador retrievers, great Danes and white-tailed deer. Almost all reported tracks have been those of bobcats or large dogs.
  • The nearest known populations of mountain lions are in Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas. However, confirmed reports of mountain lions have increased in several states near Missouri.
  • In states with known mountain lion populations, the cats are seldom seen but do leave sign in the form of tracks, scrapes, scat and prey kills.
  • Mountain lions prey principally on deer and medium-sized wild mammals, and they occasionally kill livestock and pets. Attacks on people are rare but have occurred in some western states. There is no substantive evidence that mountain lions have attacked livestock, pets or people in Missouri.
  • About twenty Missourians have a permit to hold mountain lions in captivity, and an unknown number of people hold them illegally. Captive mountain lions are also common in neighboring states. These animals sometimes escape or are released intentionally, and it is likely they can survive in the wild on abundant deer and furbearer populations.
  • The risk of a mountain lion attack in Missouri is very, very small—almost non-existent. People, livestock and pets are at much greater risk from automobiles, stray dogs and lightning strikes than they are from mountain lions.
  • MDC wants to learn more about mountain lions in Missouri and encourages all citizens to report sightings, physical evidence or other incidents so they can be thoroughly investigated. To make a report, contact the Mountain Lion Response Team by e-mail at mountain.lion@mdc.mo.gov.

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