Conservation agency creates team to probe mountain lion sightings

The Missouri Department of Conservation has established a special Mountain Lion Response Team to deal with the sudden and frequent appearance of the animals in Missouri.

Last year 14 mountain lions or cougars were spotted or killed in Missouri, a sharp increase in the previous 16 years when the conservation agency had documented only a total of 12 such sightings, which was an average of less than one sighting a year.

On Jan. 4 a 122-pound wild mountain lion was trapped alive and unharmed about 125 miles southeast of Fulton in a cage set on the Mark Twain National Forest land near Centerville in Reynolds County.

In Central Missouri, the Department reports there have been confirmed mountain lion reports in Callaway and Gasconade counties. In Callaway County an 18-month-old mountain lion was killed when it was ran over by a vehicle in August of 2003. The department reports there were no obvious signs that it was a captive animal. DNA tests revealed its orgin was North America.

The department received an eye-witness report supplemented with hair samples of a mountain lion sighting last July in Gasconade County. DNA results showed the hair came from a mountain lion.

The Missouri Department of Conservation decided to perform DNA testing on four of the mountain lions spotted in Missouri last year. The department reported Tuesday tests showed they came from South Dakota, Montana and Colorado, illustrating the species’ capacity for long-distance travel.

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