The last confirmations in Missouri recognized by the Cougar Network was a verified deer kill in Shannon County in November 2006 (southern part of the state) and a remote camera photo taken on December 7, 2006 in north-central Missouri.
The Joplin Globe
Presentation to help sort facts, myths about big cats
By Will Blanchard
JOPLIN, Mo. — Pa Ingalls may have misunderstood the capabilities of a mountain lion.
“‘Little House on the Prairie’ was wrong,” said Jeff Cantrell, with the Missouri Department of Conservation. “A mountain lion doesn’t roar. It actually will purr. It’s a very quiet predator. There’s this big myth that they scream like a woman, and they jump from treetop to treetop. They don’t do that.”
Cantrell, a conservation outreach and education expert with the department, said the “Little House” mountain lion myth is one of many that will be addressed by biologist Rex Martensen during a program today on the animal.
The free session will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center in Wildcat Park.
Martensen, who works in the Private Land Services Division with the department, also will instruct the audience on how to use pictures, video footage and animal signs such as tracks, scat and deer carcasses to make a determination about the presence of a mountain lion.
Department naturalist Amy Juhala, who planned the event, said it will educate residents, particularly by clearing up one major misconception.
“The Conservation Department does not deny that there are mountain lions in Missouri,” she said. “But there is not a huge number, and not the number that people think.”
According to state officials, since 1994 there have been 10 confirmed free-ranging mountain lions in the state, but there is no evidence that they are reproducing in Missouri. The closest to Joplin was a Christian County sighting in 1997.
The state’s Mountain Lion Response Team receives many calls each year. The team has identified some mountain lions that escaped from captivity, but other sightings have turned out to be bobcats, coyotes, large dogs and even deer.
Mountain lions are much more common in states to the west, such as Wyoming, Colorado, Texas and South Dakota, according to the experts. The few that have been identified in Missouri are usually freshly matured males, kicked out of their cub litter and aimlessly roaming to find new territory.
Still, Cantrell expects that the number of sightings will grow.
“We’re going to have a larger population because population is expanding into South Dakota and Texas,” he said.
Juhala said most mountain lions are not as aggressive as their image may suggest.
“People do fear for their livestock and personal safety when they hear mountain lions roaming around, but these animals do not like to be around people,” she said. “They tend to be pretty solitary, especially the males. They like to be back in the backcountry.”
“They are very cautious of people,” Cantrell added. “They are going to stay out of our way as much as possible.”
Juhala and Cantrell said they hope the program will shed light on mountain lions in Missouri.
“The more you know about it, the less afraid you are,” Juhala said. “We want to make sure people know as much as possible about (mountain lions).”
Cantrell, who has a particular interest in the mountain lion, takes it a step further.
“From a naturalist standpoint, they are a true symbol of the wilderness,” he said. “And I think people want those symbols.”
Mountain lions are known by many names, including puma, cougar, painter and panther.