After analyzing a saliva sample left on a dead elk in Shannon County, Missouri, the state’s Department of Conservation confirmed the first female mountain lion in Missouri since 1994.

The cat believed to originate in the Black Hills of Wyoming, South Dakota and Northwest Nebraska marks a significant find as female mountain lions typically refrain from traveling long distances, usually keeping relatively small home ranges.

“Mountain lions are still rare in Missouri,” said MDC Wildlife Management Coordinator Alan Leary. “The detection of a female increases the likelihood that breeding could occur within the state, but at this point, we don’t have evidence that a breeding population exists in Missouri.”

Over the past 23 years, the Department has recorded 68 confirmed mountain lion sightings within Missouri’s borders, but over that time period, either no females were reported or sightings were lacking evidence in determining the animal’s sex.

Recently, sightings have been on the uptick, likely due to the expansion of the population in western states, as those animals now are beginning to disperse.  A little over a week ago on January 21, a male mountain lion was struck and killed by a vehicle in Warren County.

“We know the mountain lion population has grown in western states, and that could translate to more dispersing mountain lions making their way into Missouri, but we have also gotten better at finding them,” Conlee said. “As technology has advanced, we’ve seen an explosion in the numbers of game cameras across the Missouri landscape. We’ve also established more efficient methods for reporting and investigating mountain lion sightings. These factors all likely play a role in the increased number of confirmed mountain lion sightings in our state.”

The state’s Mountain Lion Response Team, established in 1996, was created in an effort to monitor current mountain lion populations and investigate current reports and determine sex.

The state has never stocked mountain lions and reportedly has no plans to do so in the future.  The research will continue as the populations expand and the department encourages citizens to promptly report any sightings to the Mountain Lion Response Team.

 

Image:  Missouri Department of Conservation file photo