Mountain lions haven't been prevalent in Missouri since 1927 when the last known animal was killed near the Bootheel. Now it seems conservationists have indisputable proof that mountain lions exist in the wild in Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation states one male mountain lion was trapped alive in the Mark Twain National Forest in Reynolds County. Although sightings of the animal have been confirmed since 1994, it is rare for someone to have a face-to-face encounter or even capture one alive in Missouri.
Here's a look at this case, and mountain lions in Missouri in general.
* The captured cat was 122 pounds. An age was estimated to be around two years old. The creature was trapped in a cage and transported to the Current River Conservation Area and released after conservation agents sedated the mountain lion to calm the animal.
* Mountain lions once roamed freely in Missouri. Before human settlements, the predators hunted deer and elk for food. Deer in Missouri were over-hunted until the 1920s which in turn helped drive mountain lions to kill livestock for food. Less food, combined with being killed by farmers, depleted the population of mountain lions substantially.
* Only 27 confirmed sightings of mountain lions have been observed since 1994, when the Missouri Department of Conservation began to investigate occurrences of the animal once again. Most of the confirmed sightings happened in southeast and south central Missouri. Some have occurred in northern Missouri as well. Four have happened in Shannon County alone in the past 15 years.
* Mountain lions eat about one white-tailed deer per week. Males, such as the one captured alive in Reynolds County, may have a range of several hundred square miles.
* The Southeast Missourian has a picture of the actual mountain lion captured by Reynolds County Commissioner Wayne Henson. He brought the animal to Centerville, Mo., and caused quite a stir in town.
* The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports many sightings are confirmed by wildlife cameras. Sixteen of the 27 confirmed reports of mountain lions in Missouri have come in the past 14 months. Although there are no known breeding populations in the state, conservation agents believe the big cats are being pushed eastward from places like Kansas and Colorado.
* National Geographic states the mountain lion, or Felis concolor, is known by other names such as the cougar or puma. Although they commonly prey on deer, other animals such as coyotes, raccoons and porcupines can become meals for mountain lions. Arkansas has also had mountain lion sightings. On average, there are only four attacks upon humans per year in the U.S. and Canada with a single fatality on an annual basis.
William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.
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