Learn more about mountain lions
- Mountain lion, cougar, puma, panther, painter, and catamount are all different names for the same animal (Puma concolor).
- Although common at the time of European settlement, the last known historical specimen in Missouri was killed in the Bootheel area in 1927.
- The nearest known populations of mountain lions are in Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas. However, confirmed reports of mountain lions have increased in several states near Missouri.
- In states with known mountain lion populations, the cats are seldom seen but do leave signs in the form of tracks, scrapes, scat, and prey kills.
- Mountain lions prey principally on deer and medium-sized wild mammals, and they occasionally kill livestock and pets.
- About twenty Missourians have a permit to hold mountain lions in captivity, and an unknown number of people hold them illegally. Captive mountain lions are also common in neighboring states. These animals sometimes escape or are released intentionally, and it is likely they can survive in the wild on abundant deer and furbearer populations.
- “Black panthers” are not native to North America, but they do exist as melanistic (black color) phases of the leopard (Panthera pardus) found in Africa and Asia and the jaguar (Panthera onca) of Mexico and Central and South America. Throughout its range, no melanistic (black) mountain lion has ever been documented by science.
Mountain lion attacks
The risk of a mountain lion attack in Missouri is almost non-existent. People, livestock, and pets are at much greater risk from automobiles, stray dogs, and lightning strikes than they are from mountain lions. Although mountain lions rarely attack people, some have occurred in western states. Visit the mountain lion encounters page for more information about what to do if a mountain lion approaches you.
There is no substantive evidence that mountain lions have attacked livestock, pets, or people in Missouri, but you can use lethal force in defense against mountain lions. Mountain lions are classified as "extirpated" in Missouri, but remain protected under the provisions of the Wildlife Code. However, section 3 CSR 10-4.130 (6) of the Code allows the killing of any mountain lion that is attacking or killing livestock or domestic animals, or threatening human safety. Mountain lions killed during the protection of life or property must be reported to MDC immediately and the intact carcass, including pelt, surrendered within 24 hours.
The Department has never stocked mountain lions in Missouri, and it has no plans to stock in the future. In 1996 MDC established a Mountain Lion Response Team (MLRT) with specially trained staff to investigate reports and evidence of mountain lions. The MLRT has investigates hundreds of mountain lion reports, but most reported sightings and tracks turn out to be bobcats or large dogs. The MLRT has only confirmed around 70 cases.
MDC wants to learn more about mountain lions in Missouri and encourages all citizens to report sightings, physical evidence, or other incidents so they can be thoroughly investigated. To make a report, contact MLRT at firstname.lastname@example.org.