emember in early 2009 when The Landmark ran a series of articles on unconfirmed mountain lion sightings in Platte County?
Many residents called with their stories of apparent sightings.
Officials with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) basically downplayed the events, attributing most of the sightings to likely being bobcats, not mountain lions (also known as cougars).
This week, the MDC, perhaps somewhat reluctantly, has confirmed there is at least one mountain lion in Platte County. It seems this time a photograph, combined with telling hair samples that will be submitted for DNA testing, has convinced officials with the conservation department.
A landowner in southern Platte County near the Missouri River contacted the MDC with a photograph he took last Friday, Nov. 26 of a mountain lion in a tree on his property (see the photo taken by the landowner above)
“The photo is clearly of a mountain lion,” said Jeff Beringer, resource scientist with the MDC’s Mountain Lion Response Team. “We visited with the landowner, who wishes to remain anonymous, to confirm the location and to gather additional information.”
The Missouri Department of Conservation says it receives dozens of reports each year from Missourians claiming to have seen a mountain lion. Of the more than 1,500 reports received since 1994, only 11 — including the Platte County sighting — have yielded enough evidence to confirm the presence of a mountain lion.
Mountain lions are nocturnal, secretive and generally avoid contact with humans, according to MDC officials.
Beringer said that there have been no documented cases in Missouri of attacks on livestock, people or pets by mountain lions.
Beringer added that he identified claw marks on the tree where the mountain lion was photographed and collected hair samples from where the big cat was perched to submit for DNA testing.
“We will use the DNA results to help us identify where the cat came from,” explained Beringer. “We will compare the results with our database of captive mountain lions in Missouri and also look at mountain-lion DNA information from western states.”
The Mountain Lion Response Team conducts field investigations in situations where there is potential physical evidence such as photographs, wildlife or livestock kills, excrement, hair or tracks. The team has investigated hundreds of mountain lion reports since it was created in 1996.
This mountain lion was photographed in a tree by a landowner in southern Platte County near the Missouri River on Friday, Nov. 26.
“More than 90 percent of reported mountain lion sightings turn out to be bobcats, house cats, or dogs,” Beringer said. “And most of the photos we get of mountain lions turn out to be doctored photographs circulating on the Internet.”
He added that most mountain lions confirmed in Missouri in modern times, such as two killed on highways, are thought to be young males traveling from western states looking for new territory to the east.
“While mountain lions occasionally wander into Missouri from other states, we have no proof of a self-sustaining, reproducing population,” Beringer said.
He added that the MDC has never stocked or released mountain lions in Missouri and has no plans to do so.
Mountain lions (Puma concolor), also called cougars, panthers and pumas, were present in Missouri before pioneer settlement. The last documented Missouri mountain lion was killed in the Bootheel in 1927. The nearest known populations are in Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, northwestern Nebraska and Texas.
Mountain lions are a protected species in the state under the Wildlife Code of Missouri. The code does allow the killing of any mountain lion attacking or killing livestock or domestic animals, or threatening human safety. The incident must be reported to the MDC immediately and the intact carcass, including the pelt, must be surrendered to the MDC within 24 hours.
To report a sighting, physical evidence or other incident, contact a local MDC office or conservation agent, or email the Mountain Lion Response Team at email@example.com.
To read The Landmark’s series on unconfirmed mountain lion sightings in Platte County, go to tinyurl.com/39pvvb5
For more information on mountain lions in Missouri, visit www.MissouriConservation.org and search “mountain lion.”