The latest mountain lion sighting to be confirmed by the Missouri Department of Conservation was a trail camera photograph taken in rural southwest Grundy County near the Poosey Conservation Area.
The photo was taken at 8:45 p.m. on April 2, just two weeks prior to the opening of the 2012 wild turkey season which draws a lot of hunters to the Poosey area. Turkey season closed May 6 with none of the turkey hunters reporting seeing a lion.
MDC’s Mountain Lion Response Team visited the site where the photo was taken and confirmed the sighting as that of a bona fide mountain lion. The Wisconsin resident who leases the land for hunting reported the photograph to MDC, and likely was a little more cautious than usual while hunting there this spring.
This is the 29th confirmed mountain lion sighting since the Mountain Lion Response Team was formed in 1994 and the third this year.
The previous two in 2012 were both in Reynolds county in south Missouri in January. One of these was also a game camera photograph and the other was a live male mountain lion caught in a large, cage-type trap. The Mountain Lion Response Team collected DNA samples from the trapped lion before releasing it on a nearby conservation area. It is possible that these two Reynolds county sightings were the same lion.
Interestingly, only 10 of the 29 confirmed sightings were before 2010, with 19 occurring since. The sightings seem to be coming more rapidly as time progresses, with two in 2010, 14 in 2011 and three already in 2012. Although the first nine sightings were all in south Missouri, 10 of the next 20 were in north Missouri, with two more just south of the Missouri River. Reynolds and Shannon counties, with large acreages in the Mark Twain National Forest in south Missouri, lead the number of sightings with four each.
Twenty years ago, we were being told that there were no mountain lions in Missouri with the last one was killed in the 1920s, despite persistent reports of people seeing one of the big cats.
As these reports became more numerous, MDC formed a Mountain Lion Response Team, and a few of sightings were confirmed as bona fide. Confirmed sightings are becoming more common, and there’s little doubt that there are possibly several of these reclusive animals in Missouri.
Have they always been here and just not seen or reported? No one knows for sure, but it’s certainly possible, as many residents of western states never see a mountain lion, although it’s known they’ve always existed there.