Ray County cattleman kills mountain lion

News from the region
Published Date

COLUMBIA–Conservation officials say a mountain lion killed by a cattleman in Ray County was a young male that showed no sign of having been held in captivity.

Conservation Agent Tammy Pierson said Bob Littleton went to one of his pastures Sunday night after coon hounds treed a mountain lion where his cattle were grazing. He killed the mountain lion with a shot to the head from a .22-cal. rifle.

Littleton reported the incident as required by law. Pierson collected the mountain lion this morning and sent it to the Missouri Department of Conservation Resource Science Center in Columbia, where resource scientists examined it this afternoon.

Conservation Department furbearer biologist Jeff Beringer said the mountain lion weighed 115.2 pounds and measured a little over 6.5 feet from nose to tip of tail. The sharp edges of the cat’s teeth and faint barring on the insides of its legs indicate it was a young male, probably three years or younger. Beringer said laboratory tests will provide more detailed information about the cat’s age and genetic makeup.

“We removed a small premolar tooth that will be sectioned so we can count the annual growth rings,” said Beringer. “That will tell us exactly how old it was. DNA testing will tell us whether it was related to native mountain lions in states to the west of Missouri, or if it is more closely related to mountain lions from somewhere else – possibly captive animals.”

Northwest Nebraska is the area nearest Missouri with an established mountain lion population.

Genetic testing also will determine whether the mountain lion killed in Ray County is the same one photographed by a landowner in Platte County in November.

Beringer said nothing in his examination of the Ray County mountain lion led him to believe it had been held in captivity. It had no tattoos or electronic identification tags – customary ways of marking captive cats. Its skin and paws showed no sign of having lived in a concrete-floored enclosure, and it still had its dewclaws, which often are surgically removed in captive animals to prevent injury.

The Ray County cat is Missouri’s 12th confirmed mountain lion sighting since 1994. Most of the mountain lions whose bodies have been recovered have been young males. Young males are the most mobile mountain lions, because they typically leave their birth areas to establish territories not already occupied by adult males. This is consistent with biologists’ theory that the cats are coming into Missouri from other states. Beringer said there is no evidence of reproduction for mountain lions in Missouri to date. This indicates that Missouri does not have a self-sustaining mountain lion population.

Because of evidence that Missouri no longer had an established population of mountain lions (Puma concolor), the Missouri Conservation Commission reclassified the species from “endangered” to “extirpated” in 2006. This means the species no longer exists as a self-sustaining population.

Also in 2006, the Conservation Commission adopted a policy that re-establishment of a sustainable mountain lion population in Missouri is not desirable, due to the potential for conflict with human activities.

Missouri’s Wildlife Code does protect mountain lions, but the Wildlife Code also allows the killing of any mountain lion that attacks or kills livestock or domestic animals or threatens human safety. People who kill mountain lions must report the incident to MDC immediately and turn over the intact carcass, including the pelt, within 24 hours.”

More information about reporting mountain lion sightings and how to deal with mountain lions is available at http://bit.ly/ciJDvb.

-Jim Low-

Photos available at: