by Valerie Verkamp
A mountain lion was allegedly spotted roaming across the backyard of a Parkville residence.
Linda Hayes of the Riss Lake development in Parkville was standing in her kitchen when she observed what appeared to be a mountain lion just 15 yards from her home.
“I couldn't take my eyes off the enormous light cinnamon colored cat as it moved across the lawn,” said Hayes. “He walked ever so slowly and gracefully across a 30-yard area, before turning left and disappearing into the woods behind our home.”
Following the rare encounter, Hayes combed the internet trying to locate the impressive animal she just witnessed.
“The cat stood about 24 inches high and had a long tail,” said Hayes. “It wasn't bushy like a fox or coyote's tail.”
The cat was also distinct from a bobcat because it did not have any spots, she said.
The sighting occurred around 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3 in the 8100 block of Lakeview Drive, near Park University's ball fields.
Hayes’ husband, Gene, scoured the yard in search of footprints, fur or prey left behind. But no trace of the visitor was found.
“I wish I would have taken a picture,” said Hayes. “I was just afraid if I moved he would have taken off running.”
Hayes is hopeful the mountain lion will return and believes this was not the first time the animal has visited her property.
“At night, our dog will frantically bark,” said Hayes. “Fortunately, he was inside when the mountain lion came into the yard. Otherwise he would have chased after it and who knows what would have happened.”
Typically, mountain lions are reclusive animals that hunt at night. Their favorite food—deer, is abundant in the nearby Parkville Nature Sanctuary.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) cannot confirm Hayes' sighting without any physical evidence.
Each year a Mountain Lion Response Team investigates hundreds of reported mountain lion sightings spanning across the state. Over the past two decades, there have been 69 confirmed sightings in Missouri.
“Yet, of the thousands of reports we have received since 1994, less than one percent have yielded enough physical evidence to clearly confirm the presence of a mountain lion. Dog tracks and dogs themselves are the number one and number two cases of misidentification. Bobcats and house cats—along with coyotes, foxes, and deer—have also been mistaken for mountain lions,” states the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website.
There have been several unconfirmed sightings around Platte County in recent years.
The last confirmed sighting of a mountain lion in Platte County occurred in November of 2010. A landowner in southern Platte County near the Missouri River snapped a photo of a mountain lion perched in a tree on his property. The MDC confirmed that sighting.
Another confirmed sighting in this area occurred in 2002 when a motorist fatally struck a three-year-old male mountain lion in Clay County.
It is believed among a good portion of the public that the Missouri Department of Conservation tends to downplay reported sightings to assuage any fears the public may have of an encounter.
Virtually all the mountain lions conservation agents have confirmed in Missouri have been males, which are more likely to travel great distances. There was a female mountain lion detected in Shannon County, but that was an aberration, according to the MDC. It was the second confirmed female mountain lion in the state since 1994. Still, there is insufficient evidence to conclude there is a breeding population of mountain lions in the state, according to the MDC.
The department says the risk of having a dangerous encounter with a mountain lion is slim.
“Mountain lions are naturally shy of people and seldom cause problems, even in states with thriving populations,” states the Missouri Department of Conservation's website. “The danger of a mountain lion attack is highly unlikely compared to many other familiar dangers we encounter every day.”
“For example, more than 50,000 people die in automobile accidents in the United States each year. Lightning kills another 86 people, and dogs kill 80 more. In contrast, fatal mountain lion attacks have averaged one in every seven years since 1980.”