Updated on 1/24
The killing of a mountain lion near La Plata over the weekend is the talk of the town.
The cougar was shot by a coyote hunter Saturday. Mountain lions are a protected species in Missouri, but the wildlife code says you can shoot a cat if you feel it is threatening you or your livestock.
In interviewing the hunters, this cat came out from under a Sida tree about 20 yards away from this gentleman who was on foot with a shotgun. He did feel threatened and so therefore we're not perusing any prosecution in this case, said Matt Wolken, Regional Supervisor for Protection Division of the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The male mountain lion was taken to Columbia Monday morning by a member of the Mountain Lion Response Team. A lab will perform an autopsy and other tests to see what the animal TMs been eating, and if it's related to a mountain lion killed recently killed in Ray County. Wolken says the department of conservation is not releasing mountain lions, and that it mostly likely came from Colorado or the Dakotas.The department receive a lot of calls about mountain lion sightings, and they investigate each report.
If anybody reports seeing one its not that we disbelieve them, but we cannot confirm it unless we have tracks, or a sign, or the animal itself like in this case, or something that definitely proves that this was a mountain lion, so even though we get lots of reports of them, we've only been able to confirm 14 in the last 16 years, said Wolken.
He says encountering a mountain lion in Northeast Missouri is a rare instance. But if you do, you should report it to the department of conservation immediately. Wolken says the animals are very shy and secretive, and probably won't want anything to do with you. Wolken says each of the confirmed mountain lion sightings have been young males, with one exception in 1994. This mountain lion sighting was one of four confirmed in only the last three months. -----------------------------------------------
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) said a mountain shot near La Plata, Mo. was the second one killed in the state in three months.
Department officials told KTVO they received a call this afternoon from an Amish landowner.
According to the department, a group of hunters were scavenging the landowner TMs farm for coyotes, when they came within 20 yards of the big cat.
Nearly 100 hunters were scavenging the farm, but only about 12 saw the cat. None of the hunters had dogs.
At this point, the conservation department said they will not press charges because they believe the cougar presented enough danger to the hunters to warrant shooting.
MDC estimated that the animal weighed nearly 130 lbs., but have no official weight at this time.
This is the 14th official sighting of a mountain lion in the state, but it's the fourth in the last year.
Conservation agent Marsha Jones said it's rare to see a cougar, and while more big cats may be coming to the state, they're probably not breeding.
"We think that they're solitary males who are leaving areas like the Black Hills, the Dakotas. They're following the Missouri River Basin. They're looking to establish territory. All of them have been males, we haven't seen any females. You need a male and a female to establish a population. We haven't seen the other half of that yet, so we feel very confident that we do not have a breeding population in our state," said Jones.
The conservation will send the mountain lion to Columbia for lab testing to determine if it is truly wild, and also to determine if it's related to the animal killed in Ray County, Mo. in November.
For more questions about the cat, contact the Missouri Department of Conservation office in Kirksville.
Their number is (660) 785-2420.
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Nathan Vickers contributed to this story.