Many Investigations, Few Confirmations
Each year the Conservation Department investigates hundreds of mountain-lion sighting reports. Yet, of the thousands of reports we have received since 1994, less than 1 percent have yielded enough physical evidence to clearly confirm the presence of a mountain lion. Dog tracks and dogs themselves are the number one and number two cases of misidentification. Bobcats and house cats — along with coyotes, foxes, and deer — have also been mistaken for mountain lions.
Because mountain lions are reclusive animals, it's hard to know exactly when and where they may be present. Although a reported sighting can be very compelling, we must gather hard evidence before we can say, “Yes, we have a confirmed mountain lion sighting.” To investigate citizen reports, the Department set up the Mountain Lion Response Team in 1996.
No Established Breeding Population
The Mountain Lion Response Team has confirmed numerous mountain lion confirmations in the state. Nearly all mountain lions confirmed in Missouri have either proven to be males or have provided insufficient evidence to determine sex.
A female was detected in 2016 which increases the chances that breeding could occur in the state, but MDC currently has no evidence of reproduction within Missouri
The Wildlife Code protects mountain lions while allowing citizens to protect livestock and human safety.
2006 Conservation Commission Policy Statement: It is not desirable to encourage the re-establishment of a mountain lion population in Missouri. The Department has not and has no plans to stock mountain lions in Missouri.
Slim Chance of a Dangerous Encounter
The return of mountain lions to Missouri is exciting to some, but frightening to others. Because mountain lions have been absent from our state for so long, most Missourians have never seen them and don’t know much about their behavior. Mountain lions are naturally shy of people and seldom cause problems, even in states with thriving populations. The danger of a mountain lion attack is highly unlikely compared to many other familiar dangers we encounter every day. For example, more than 50,000 people die in automobile accidents in the United States each year. Lightning kills another 86 people, and dogs kill 80 more. In contrast, fatal mountain lion attacks have averaged one in every seven years since 1980.
To learn more about mountain lions, where they may be coming from, and what evidence we look for to confirm a sighting, visit the topics below.