MDC’s Mountain Lion Response Team uses a variety of science based methods to investigate sightings.
When MDC’s Mountain Lion Response Team receives a sighting report, they get to work.
“We get a lot of reports every year,” said MDC Furbearer Biologist Laura Conlee, a member of the team. “If reports come with a clear photo or some kind of physical evidence — scat, hair, or a fresh track — we can confirm whether the animal was a mountain lion or something else.”
When investigating photos, the team asks to see all the images in the sequence. “We’re looking for the scale of the animal,” Conlee said. “In many cases it’s clearly a housecat, bobcat, or a dog. But if it’s obviously a mountain lion — or if we just can’t tell — we send a member of the team to take a look.”
One technique the team uses is life-sized cutouts of a housecat, a bobcat, and a mountain lion positioned in the spot where the animal appears in the original photo. “This on-site comparison makes it easy to tell which cutout the photographed animal matches,” Conlee said.
If the team finds physical evidence, such as hair, blood, or even a carcass, it collects a DNA sample and sends it to a lab. “The DNA tells us the sex of the animal, where it likely came from, and whether it’s been sampled or detected before,” Conlee said.
Most of the time the lions coming into Missouri are transient, sub-adult males, although a female was documented in 2016. “We’ve never documented breeding within the state,” Conlee said.
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