By Bill Wehrle, C-T Outdoor Editor
Wednesday, April 11, 2007 12:42 PM CDT
The Missouri Conservation Department's Mountain Lion Response Team was in Chillicothe Monday evening to disseminate information and answer questions about the presence of mountain lions in Missouri.
The forum, held at the Gary Dickinson Performing Arts Center at the high school, was open to the public. The 10th confirmed sighting of a bona fide Missouri mountain lion in the last 13 years occurred just north of Chillicothe last December when Joe Neis' trail camera snapped its photo as it strode down a deer trail on his hunting property.
Furbearer Biologist David Hamilton, who heads up the MDC Response Team, conducted the meeting, which attracted a good-sized crowd of area outdoorsmen and women interested in learning more about the big cats, long thought to be totally absent from the Show-Me state until confirmed reports started coming in during the late 1990's.
Mountain lions were known to exist in Missouri in some numbers prior to 1900, but were thought to have been wiped out completely by settlers by the 1920s. Hamilton stressed that MDC is in no way managing for mountain lions in Missouri as they feel it would cause too much conflict in such a well populated area. He emphatically stated that MDC is not and has never introduced or stocked any mountain lions in the state and has no intention of doing so.
He stated, "No one brought mountain lions to Missouri, they simply have walked here from time to time as they are run out of their birth area."
Most of the 10 confirmed sightings of mountain lion existence in Missouri has been in the southern part of the state where the habitat is more conducive to the large predators. The Neis photo is the first confirmed existence of a lion in north central Missouri, although one was killed by an auto in Kansas City in 2002 and one was videoed by a bowhunter in Lewis County in northeast Missouri in 2000. . . .