River in Lisbon, Missouri
 
Photo of landsacape.

THE STATUS OF LIONS IN MISSOURI

Help ensure a future for mountain lions in Missouri!

Missouri killed its last known indigenous lion in 1927. The species was eventually placed on the State's endangered species list and protected although this protection was removed in 2006. Lions were gone for nearly seventy years. Eventually some dispersing individuals wandered over from western states. In February 2012 Missouri Senate Bill 738 was introduced by Senator Stouffer to provide a legal basis for anyone to kill a mountain lion in Missouri, at any time, for any reason. If passed, this bill would have removed any last shred of protection for mountain lions in Missouri. Thanks to people like you speaking out, this bill was defeated.

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Missouri's Mountain Lion Management


The Status of Mountain Lions in Missouri

Missouri killed its last indigenous lion in 1927. Although mountain lions were wiped out by the 1920s, the species was eventually placed on the states endangered species list and protected (should any cats happen to turn up) in Missouri. Lions were gone for nearly seventy years. Eventually some dispersing individuals wandered over from western states. From 1994 through 2005, there were five cases of confirmed mountain lion presence (photographs, tracks, and/or DNA evidence) in Missouri, and three lions were killed by residents.

Potential Routes to Missouri from Other States

Then in 2006, based on unfounded concerns from cattle ranchers, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Commission announced it was "...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." This decision removed the mountain lion from the states endangered species list and reclassified it as "extirpated," meaning extinct (or no local breeding population) in a particular area.

Because of the irrational fear of what could happen and misinformation about the species, the mountain lion is no longer protected in Missouri.

According to the MDC website, "The prospect of increasing mountain lion populations in Missouri causes a feeling of alarm for some folks. They cite the quickly growing bobcat population in the Midwest and are concerned that mountain lions could do the same thing if left unchecked. Missouri annually ranks among the top states for the number of cattle raised, and the potential presence of mountain lions causes much concern among producers. There have been no reports of mountain lions attacking people in Missouri, and no evidence of attacks on livestock or pets."

The MDC Code technically prohibits the hunting or random killing of any lion that wanders into the state. The law only allows people to kill lions that are attacking people or domestic animals. MDC Code 3 CSR 10-4.130 (6) states, "Mountain lions attacking or killing livestock or domestic animals, or attacking human beings, may be killed without prior permission, but the kill must be reported immediately to an agent of the department and the intact mountain lion carcass, including pelt, must be surrendered to the agent within twenty-four (24) hours." However, because they do not want a lion population in Missouri, since 2006 the MDC has not prosecuted any of the hunters who have treed and shot lions for sport.

Sightings and Human-Caused Mountain Lion Mortality in Missouri

Sporadic sightings continue to be reported in the state. While some may be released pets (nearly thirty Missourians have permits to legally keep lions in captivity), research shows the majority are dispersing juveniles, primarily males, from western states making the trek over in search of new habitat. Young lions naturally have an instinct to disperse. Some will travel hundreds of miles to find available and suitable habitat and to get away from lions they are closely related to.

They may be following the Missouri River corridor and coming down from South Dakota. Other research suggests they could be coming up from parts of southwest Texas. Either way, each lion will continue to wander until it finds a mate.

Since there is no evidence of lions breeding in Missouri at this time, it is likely these lions are just passing through. If enough make it into the state, they could potentially settle and establish a local population. However, with no legal protection and the few cats who do show up being killed, having an established population of lions in Missouri may take decades or possibly never happen at all.

Sightings Confirmed by the MDC Mountain Lion Response Team

Click here for the latest information on mountain lion sightings in Missouri.


Photo of lion profile in grass.
  • January 2017 Pike Photo of a mountain lion taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • January 2017 Warren Subadult male mountain lion killed in a vehicle collision. No indication of a captive animal. Genetic analyses are in progress to determine origin.
  • November 2016 Reynolds Photo of a mountain lion taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • December 2016 Oregon Photo of a mountain lion taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • April 2016 St. Clair Found dead on Harry S. Truman Reservoir shoreline by an angler. Genetic analyses indicate the individual was a male with a probable population of origin in the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota, and NW Nebraska
  • April 2016 Shannon Photo of a mountain lion taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • February 2016 Shannon A three year old cow elk, suspected to be affected by brain worm, was killed by a mountain lion. Genetic analyses revealed this individual was a female with a probable population of origin in the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota, and NW Nebraska
  • January 2016 Henry Photo of a mountain lion taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • December 2015 Boone Photo of a mountain lion taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • December 2015 Reynolds Photo of a mountain lion taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • November 2015 Warren Photo of a mountain lion taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • October 2015 Miller Photo of a mountain lion taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • August 2015 Carter Photo of a mountain lion taken by a game camera and a kill site of an 80 lb. elk calf with characteristics of a mountain lion kill. MLRT confirmed using the photos and other sign.
  • May 2015 Shannon Citizen reported mountain lion tracks near the Current River, an investigation confirmed the track photos and other sign at the site.
  • May 2015 Laclede Subadult male mountain lion killed in a vehicle collision. No obvious signs indicating it was a captive animal. Genetic analysis revealed the propbable population of origin was Wyoming.
  • February 2015 Harrison Photos taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • November 2014 Taney Photos taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • November 2014 Douglas Photos taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • October 2014 Carter Photos taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • October 2014 Madison Photos taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • June 2014 Oregon Photos taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • March 2014 Carter Photos taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • November 2013 Madison Photos taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • October 2013 Reynolds Photos taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • October 2013 Barry Photos taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • September 2013 Shannon Photos taken by a game camera. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • August 2013 Carter Photos taken by a game camera at Peck Ranch Conservation Area. MLRT confirmed using photos and other sign.
  • June 2013 - Pulaski County Photograph taken by a motion-activated game camera on private land. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photograph. This marks the 40th confirmed mountain lion sighting (forty pieces of evidence, not necessarily forty individual lions) in Missouri since the species was extirpated from the state in 1927.
  • Agent standing over mountain lion carcass on an examination table.
    Missouri Department of Conservation.
  • February 2013 - Carter County Photographs were taken by a motion-activated game camera at Peck Ranch Conservation Area. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed these images and other signs at the location.
  • January 2013 - Warren County Three photographs were taken by a landowner's motion-activated game camera from December 9, 2012, though January 3, 2013. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photographs.
  • December 2012 - Carter County A photograph was taken by a hunter's motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photograph.
  • December 2012 - DeKalb County A photograph was taken by a hunter's motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photograph.
  • October 2012 - Taney County A photograph was taken by a hunter's motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photograph.
  • October 2012 - Ripley County A photograph was taken by a hunter's motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photograph.
  • October 2012 - Reynolds County A photograph was taken by a hunter's motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photograph.
  • September 2012 - Shannon County A photograph was taken by another landowner's motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photograph.
  • September 2012 - Shannon County A photograph was taken by a landowner's motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photograph.
  • April 2012 - Grundy County A photograph was taken by another landowner's motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photograph.
  • April 2012 - Grundy County A photograph was taken by a landowner's motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photograph.
  • January 2012 - Reynolds County A photograph was taken by a landowner's motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photograph.
  • Mountain lion laying in small cage.
  • January 2012 - Reynolds County A private landowner caught a live male mountain lion in a large, cage-type game trap. The Mountain Lion Response Team collected DNA samples and determined the animal was about two years old with no signs of having been held in captivity.
  • September 2011 - Wayne County A photograph of a paw print in mud was taken by MDC staff and verified to be that of a mountain lion by the Mountain Lion Response Team.
  • September 2011 - Reynolds County Two photographs were taken by a private landowner. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photographs.
  • September 2011 - Shannon County A photograph was taken on Rocky Creek Conservation Area by a motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the photograph.
  • September 2011 - Shannon County A photograph was taken by a motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the image as being the same as the confirmed report in Shannon County in July 2011.
  • September 2011 - Texas County Subadult male shot by a landowner. No obvious signs of confinement. DNA analysis pending.
  • August 2011 - Carter County MDC received an eye-witness report supplemented with hair samples. Location origin of hair samples was confirmed by MDC staff. DNA analysis results confirm hair was from a mountain lion.
  • August 2011 - Oregon County A photograph was taken by a motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the image.
  • July 2011 - Gasconade County MDC received an eye-witness report supplemented with hair samples. Location origin of hair samples was confirmed by MDC staff. DNA analysis results confirm hair was from a mountain lion.
  • July 2011 - Shannon County A photograph was taken by a motion-activated game camera. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed the location of the image.
  • Macon County Lion Tracks, April 20, 2011
    Macon County Lion Tracks, April 20, 2011
  • April 2011 - Macon County Citizen sent photos of tracks in a muddy creekbed. The Mountain Lion Response Team confirmed tracks to be those of a mountain lion.
  • March 2011 - Oregon County Citizen reported observing a mountain lion jump a fence. DNA analysis of hairs collected at the scene confirmed species.
  • January 2011 - Macon County Subadult male shot by coyote hunters. No obvious signs of confinement. DNA analysis determined this mountain lion was likely a descendant of a South Dakota population.
  • January 2011 - St. Louis County Photo of probable subadult disperser taken by motion-activated game camera.
  • Agent standing over mountain lion carcass on an examination table.
    Photo by Missouri Department of Conservation.
    Mountain lion shot by James McElwee in Ray County on January 2, 2011 is examined by Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer (left) and Wildlife Biologist Todd Meese of the Missouri Department of Conservation in Columbia, Mo. Landowner Bob Littleton lied, saying he shot the lion because it had killed his cattle. However, later he confessed that a friend, James McElwee, who was hunting raccoons nearby had actually shot the lion out of a tree, and there had been no attacks on livestock. Despite no immediate threat or danger, and lying about the incident to officials, neither man was prosecuted by MDC.
  • January 2011 - Ray County Subadult male treed and shot by raccoon hunters. No obvious signs of confinement. DNA analysis determined this mountain lion was likely a descendant of a South Dakota population.
  • December 2010 - Linn County Photo of probable subadult disperser taken by motion-activated game camera.
  • November 2010 - Platte County Photo of probable subadult disperser taken by landowner. DNA analysis of hair samples collected from the scene could not confirm ancestry.
  • December 2006 - Livingston County A photograph of a probable subadult disperser was taken by a motion-activated game camera.
  • November 2006 - Shannon County Tracks and deer carcass characteristic of a mountain lion kill were found.
  • August 2003 - Callaway County An approximately 1 1/2-year-old male road kill. There were no obvious signs that it was formerly a captive animal. DNA analysis revealed its origin to be North America.
  • October 2002 - Clay County A two- to three-year-old male road kill. DNA analysis revealed its origin to be North America.
  • December 2001 - Pulaski County A photograph was taken by a motion-activated game camera. After a lengthy evaluation, it was determined that it was likely a small, subadult mountain lion.
  • December 2000 - Lewis County A video was taken by a deer hunter from a tree stand.
  • January 1999 - Texas County An adult-sized lion was treed by a rabbit hunter's dogs. Tracks in the snow (photos taken) and two deer carcasses characteristic of lion kills were found nearby.
  • January 1997 - Christian County A video was taken by a property owner. The animal's behavior suggested it had once been held in captivity.
  • November 1996 - Reynolds County A mountain lion with a deer carcass is videotaped.
  • December 1994 - Carter County A small adult female was treed and shot by two raccoon hunters near Peck Ranch Conservation Area. The carcass was never recovered, but a photo was obtained of the animal on a truck tailgate. Federal authorities fined each hunter $2,000. In Nov. 1998, a deer hunter found the skinned pelt of a small adult, a female, with head and feet attached, near a remote Texas County road. Although evidence suggests this is the same animal killed in Carter County, it cannot be confirmed absolutely.
  • 1927 - Missouri's last known indigenous mountain lion is killed, making the lion officially extirpated (extinct) within the state.
Mapped Sightings of Lions in Missouri

Mountain Lion Research in Missouri

In response to recent mountain lion confirmations and an increasing number of reported sightings in the state, the Missouri Department of Conservation has created a Mountain Lion Response Team. These individuals have been trained to identify lion sign and monitor sightings from the public. More than 99 percent of their investigations have concluded the reported animal was NOT a mountain lion. Dog tracks and dog sightings are the two most common culprits for misidentification. Additionally, bobcats, house cats, and other fast, tan-colored wild animals in the brush like foxes, coyotes, and deer have been mistaken for lions.

MDC Mountain Lion Response Team investigates sightings where physical evidence is present. Examples of evidence include:

  • photographs
  • video
  • tracks
  • scat or hair samples linked to a sighting
  • animals attacked or killed by a lion

The Mountain Lion Response Team encourages anyone who has evidence of a mountain lion in Missouri to get in contact with them.

mountain.lion@mdc.mo.gov

Missouri Brochure

Check out the brochure created by Mountain Lion Foundation and local Missouri activists to learn more about why there have been recent sightings in Missouri, how these lions could help the local ecosystem, and what legal steps need to be taken next.

View in PDF and print out our Mountain Lions in Missouri brochure (offered 11" x 17" or 8.5" x 14" paper format) and please share it with your friends, colleagues, and neighbors.




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