Mountain lion sightings in northeast Missouri|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|04/22/05 at 01:14:00|richard_f|xx|0|81.154.154.231|Mountain lion sightings in northeast Missouri
Associated Press

HANNIBAL, Mo. - The plains of northeast Missouri would seem an odd place to
find a mountain lion, but conservation agents say reports of sightings are
common.
Last month, a man reported seeing one of the large cats running through a
field near Perry, about 100 miles northwest of St. Louis. While it hasn't
been confirmed the animal was a mountain lion, it may well have been, said
Greg Gremaud, natural history biologist for the Missouri Department of
Conservation's northeast region.
The most recent confirmed sighting in the region was last May, when an
animal spotted in a field near Madison left tracks indicating it was likely
a mountain lion.
Gremaud said he receives 6-8 mountain lion reports each year.
"And while I can't verify that they saw a mountain lion, to be honest, I'd
say I believe a good percentage of the reports," he said.
Mountain lions are known by many names - cougar, puma, catamount, panther.
While most abundant in the western U.S., the cats are adaptable to different
types of habitats. Experts report that they are most abundant in areas with
plentiful deer and adequate cover, which is why it makes sense to Gremaud
that cougars may be in northeast Missouri.
"White-tailed deer is their primary prey and there's plenty of prey for
them, along with mixed habitats," he said.
Gremaud suspects that many of the cougars sighted are younger males, who may
have been driven out of western territories by dominant males. These
youngsters may be moving east, searching for a hunting territory they can
claim.
"Anybody with the Conservation Department would tell you that at any one
time there's mountain lions in the state," said Gremaud. "However, nobody
would guess as to how many there are. I don't know that anybody is willing
to say there is a breeding population, but there's a darn good likelihood
there will be, if it hasn't already."
Adult males may be more than 8 feet long and generally weigh 130 to 150
pounds. Adult females can be 7 feet long and weigh 65 to 90 pounds.
Mountain lions are reclusive and in most instances will avoid contact with
humans. However, Gremaud warns against turning and running if you happen
upon one that is feeding.
"Make yourself look big," Gremaud said. "If you're wearing a jacket, spread
it out to make yourself look bigger, then back up and keep an eye on it."


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