Big cat in Northland is bobcat, not mountain lion

News from the region
Kansas City
Published Date

KANSAS CITY Mo - A big-cat photograph zinging via e-mail around the Kansas City area is being reported as a possible mountain lion sighting in the Northland.

But it’s clearly a bobcat, says Todd Meese, a wildlife-damage biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservationm (MDC). A close examination of the photo shows black spots in the fur on the legs and face of the cat, sure signs of a bobcat. There is also no tail, and mountain lions have very long tails such that when they are tucked even the tip is visible.

“It has the facial ruff on the cheeks and white patches on the ears,” Meese said. “It’s a bobcat.”

The photograph was taken on Nov. 7 near Northeast 132 Street and North Stark Avenue with a digital camera mounted near a game trail. Hunters use cameras to track deer. But in such photos, animals and objects often appear to be much larger than they really are. The picture was taken in unincorporated Clay County, south of the Ectonville neighborhood.

Bobcats, nocturnal and secretive, are common throughout the metro area.

“Realistically, bobcats are living here in the metro and they typically go unnoticed,” Meese said.

The problem with bobcat photos being touted as mountain lions, Meese said, “is it scares people. When that happens, it causes undue panic and people may shoot somebody’s dog or a bobcat illegally.”

Missouri has had 10 confirmed mountain lion sightings since 1994. They are believed to be, primarily, young males looking for home territories from western states with reproducing mountain lion populations or possibly captive escapes or releases. Missouri does not have an established, reproducing population of mountain lions.