Wild Jobs: Mountain Lion CSI Team

By | October 1, 2013
From Xplor: October/November 2013

When someone spots a big cat, the Mountain Lion CSI (Cat Sighting Investigation) Team goes on alert.

Q: Are there mountain lions in Missouri?

A: Sure, but not as many as people think. We get dozens of reports every week from folks who think they’ve seen a mountain lion. But since 1994, only about 40 sightings have provided enough evidence for us to say, “Yep, that’s a lion.”

Q: What kind of evidence do you need?

A: We look for tracks, hair, and poop. Photos are good, too — if they’re of an actual mountain lion.

Q: Do people send photos of other animals?

A: We see lots of bobcats and dogs, especially Labrador retrievers. It’s hard to identify a moving animal, especially at a distance. Sometimes even the CSI team has a tough time. Recently, a lady sent us a video of a house cat sneaking across a baseball outfield. She was sure it was a mountain lion.

Q: What made you sure it was a house cat?

A: We placed life-size cutouts of a mountain lion, bobcat, and house cat in the same outfield. When we compared our cutouts to the animal in the video, it was pretty obvious.

Q: Does your work involve looking for clues?

A: Sometimes. A hunter once called and said he’d shot a mountain lion. We searched the scene and found the hunter’s arrow. We searched more and found a dead bobcat. At the lab, we matched the bobcat’s blood to blood on the arrow.

Q: If readers think they’ve seen a mountain lion, what should they do?

A: Email us at mountain.lion@mdc.mo.gov. We’d sure like to know about it.

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This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White