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 email@example.com. We’d sure like to know about it.
Nichole LeClair Terrill