Mountain lion struck by vehicle serves as reminder to report sightings in Missouri
A rare Missouri mountain lion sighting was reported recently after one of the big cats was hit by a vehicle in Franklin County.
The cougar appeared injured and stunned, but eventually ran away from the scene north of Villa Ridge, which is a little less than a three-hour drive from Springfield.
Missouri Department of Conservation was notified about the incident at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 23, but could not find the animal that night or the next day. It was only the third confirmed mountain lion sighting in MDC’s St. Louis Region since 2011, according to a department's social media post.
An average year will see between five and 10 sightings across the state, said Nate Bowersock, furbearer biologist with MDC.
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Mountain lions were extirpated from Missouri in early 1900s
Mountain lions are very large cats with small heads and rounded ears that aren't tufted, big shoulders and hindquarters and a large tail.
Officially labeled as "extirpated," mountain lions were rooted out of Missouri around the same time black bears and gray wolves were in the early 1900s, Bowersock said. During the nation's early colonization, predator species were "vilified" and bounties were placed on carnivores.
"If you saw them and killed them, you got a reward and the goal was to remove them from the landscape," Bowersock said.
Game species, like deer and elk, were also over-hunted, he added.
"With changes in management of predators and also prey species in the west, mountain lion populations stabilized and then actually started to grow and expand," Bowersock said. "I believe in the '90s, we started to see mountain lion populations expanding out of the mountain west and starting to move a little more east."
DNA samples collected from some of the passing mountain lions link them to states like South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. While there is no evidence of a breeding population in Missouri, there have been confirmed sightings scattered statewide, as far east as Lewis, Madison, Warren, Wayne and St. Louis counties.
Currently, there are no plans to restore mountain lion populations here.
Latest incident with mountain lion serves as a reminder to report sightings
Sightings of mountain lions should be reported to either law enforcement or MDC.
"It's very important not only to give those animals distance, whether they're injured or not, but to also report, in this case, to MDC or local law enforcement," Bowersock said.
In the recent case in Villa Ridge, people gave the mountain lion time and space to get up on its own, "which is the best-case scenario," Bowersock said.
MDC established a Mountain Lion Response Team in 1996 to investigate reports and evidence of mountain lions. The team has investigated hundreds of reports, but most turned out to be bobcats or large dogs. Fewer than 11 cases have been confirmed. To report mountain lion sightings, email email@example.com.
Here's what to remember about being mountain lion aware:
Be aware of your surroundings;
If you come across a mountain lion, make yourself as big as possible and wave your arms in the air;
Make lots of noise — "hooting and hollering" — to dissuade them from hanging around.
Sara Karnes is an Outdoors Reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow along with her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Sara_Karnes.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Mountain lion struck by vehicle serves as reminder to report sightings