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Here's a cougar sighting
that's easily confirmed

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

A 100-125 pound adult male mountain lion, measuring about 7 feet from its nose to the tip of its tail, was mortally wounded when struck by a car near the I-29/I-35 split just beyond the Platte County line early Monday.

Steve Nichols, Missouri Department of Conservation Agent, said tests to attempt to determine whether the cougar was wild or an exotic pet have been inconclusive thus far.

Testing on the stomach of the cougar has showed its stomach to be basically empty. Its intestines had hair in it, though it's unclear what type of hair, Nichols said on Tuesday.

After being struck by the car, the cougar was found in the yard of a residence severely injured and was shot by a police officer. It was found about 40 yards from the interstate where it was struck. Nichols said it had jumped a fence.

"If the animal was wild it was having a rough time finding something to eat. If it had been in captivity it was apparently not being fed," Nichols said Tuesday.

Nichols said the animal's claws didn't show any markings of being caged, but there were no signs of it being a wild animal as there were no parasites or nicks on the animal's coat.

"It's coat was awfully clean. I doubt we'll ever know if it was wild or an illegal pet," Nichols said.

Nichols said people are supposed to register exotic animals with the Conservation Department. The closest permit issued for a cougar is to someone in Farley. No one in Clay County is registered as owner of a cougar.

He said a cougar and a mountain lion are the same animal, simply known by different names depending on what part of the country they're spotted.

Nichols picked up the cougar's body about two hours after the 1:45 a.m. accident on Monday. He said several cougar sightings have been reported—both before and since this incident—in the Kansas City area but that this is the only ever-confirmed sighting.

Susan Ratliff, 44, of Kansas City, North was the driver of the vehicle that struck the cougar on I-35 near Parvin Road. She was not injured.

Nichols said he never doubts somebody's story when they say they've seen wildlife such as a cougar, but there "just aren't' that many out there" to justify the number of calls.

"There's a mystique about cougars. People want to talk about them and want to see them," he said.

He explained there has been an explosion of bobcats/bobcat sightings in Platte County. The bobcats are about half the size of a mountain lion.

"Some people have seen bobcats and thought they were looking at a mountain lion," he explained.