During the past fifteen years there have been eighteen confirmed cases of mountain lion sightings in Missouri (not necessarily 18 lions since some may be multiple sightings of the same cat). Hunters eliminated mountain lions from Missouri in 1927. However, these new confirmations and increased media coverage have caused many residents take notice. There have been no lion attacks on people or domestic animals in the state. Sightings are very rare, but that hasn't stopped locals from setting up motion-activated cameras and occasionally capturing images of the shy dispersing juvenile lions. Increased trophy hunting in western states combined with shrinking habitats may be forcing young male lions to seek new landscapes in the Midwest. Females could eventually follow, allowing Missouri to once again have a healthy breeding population of the species.
Unfortunately, the Missouri Department of Conservation (the state agency responsible for managing Missouri's wildlife) decided it would be "...undesirable to have a breeding population of mountain lions in Missouri [...] therefore, the Department of Conservation will not encourage the species to reestablish itself in the state." As a result, no hunter who has shot and killed one of these rare cats in Missouri in the last fifteen years has been prosecuted. On September 5th a landowner saw a lion on his property and promptly killed it. According to a news report, as usual "Conservation officials say they found no reason to charge the landowner in this case." Biologists are doing a great job of mapping each sighting, looking at potential lion habitat corridors, and processing sighting evidence, but it may all be in vain if top officials have already decided they will not allow the species to return.
As a precursor to getting mountain lions more protection in Missouri, MLF has begun informing local residents about the American lion, its biology, history in the state, and why there is no need to be afraid of or kill this shy and elusive animal. After understanding mountain lions a little better, most people tend to appreciate the big cat and will step up to protect it. Please help by sharing our Mountain Lions in Missouri Brochure and by urging Missouri residents to contact their local legislators and demand more protection for the American lion. View or write comments on this article