Saturday, April 08, 2006

Mountain lion is taken off Missouri's endangered list

Mountain lion is taken off Missouri's endangered list


By Ken Leiser




Missouri conservation commissioners voted Friday to remove the mountain lion from the state endangered species list, saying the native cat should not be allowed to mount a comeback.


Mountain lion sightings have increased in the last five to 10 years, raising concerns among the public, said John Smith, assistant director with the Missouri Department of Conservation.


While conservation officials don't believe wild cougars are re-establishing themselves in the state, Friday's move was an effort to "clarify" Missouri policy toward the animal. "The fact is, we don't believe there is a breeding, self-sustaining population of mountain lions in the state of Missouri," Smith said.


The commission had designated the mountain lion as endangered in 1973, Smith said, on the mistaken belief that there was a small population in the Ozarks.


Friday's move surprised and angered environmental groups that were hopeful that the cat could regain a foothold.


"I think it is outrageous," said Ted Heisel, executive director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. "Here is one of the more charismatic species that our state once had. The mountain lion is native to Missouri."


Heisel said it is "troubling" that the commission charged with protecting wildlife took such a position.


"They're denying reality," said Ken Midkiff, conservation chairman of the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club. "I don't think there is any doubt that there is a population."


One of the objectives of endangered species programs is to restore the populations of listed animals, Smith said. The commission determined that would not be "desirable" in the case of the mountain lion.


Smith said the panel considered the potential threat to livestock and human safety.


While many mountain lion reports turn out to be large dogs or bobcats, Smith said, there still have been confirmed sightings that stoked public concern, particularly in rural Missouri. 314-340-8215


For the cats,


Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 100 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

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