COLUMBIA — A mountain lion killed in western Missouri on Sunday has been turned over to the state Department of Conservation in Columbia as required by the state wildlife code.
Mountain lions are protected under the code. They are considered "extirpated" or extinguished from the area by the conservation department.
The man who shot the lion said he was defending his cattle, according to Jeff Beringer, a resource scientist with the department. The man told authorities that one of his cows had been recently killed, and commotion in his field alerted him to the danger.
According to the wildlife code, if a mountain lion is attacking or killing livestock or domestic animals, or threatening human safety, it may be killed.
Any mountain lion killed under this rule must be reported immediately, and the intact carcass, including pelt, must be surrendered to a department agent within 24 hours.
The mountain lion, also known as a cougar, puma or panther, was taken to the Missouri Department of Conservation research center in Columbia, which conducted tests on the animal.
“We’ve taken tissue samples and will do a DNA analysis to find out if it was an escaped captive animal or wild,” Beringer said. The DNA analysis results could take about a month.
It was a lean but healthy young male cat, Beringer said. It weighed about 115 pounds.
The ridge of the cat’s tooth is still sharp, which indicates roughly two years of age, said Rex Martensen, field program supervisor.
Male cats are territorial, and the lion's age suggests that an older male cat could have run him out of the area, Beringer said.
“It is typical for young males to take off 300-400 miles looking for romance,” he said.
The cat will be mounted and put in a nature center somewhere in the state, Beringer said.
“It’s a great opportunity to educate,” he said.
Since 1994, the conservation department has confirmed reports of 11 free-living mountain lions in Missouri. Its Mountain Lion Response has investigated hundreds of other reports that have turned out to be bobcats, red foxes, Labrador retrievers, great Danes and white-tailed dear. Almost all tracks have been either bobcats or large dogs.
“People don’t see (mountain lions), so they don’t know what they look like,” Beringer said. Many confuse mountain lions with bobcats, which are about 30 pounds and significantly smaller, he said.
Although male mountain lions do occasionally travel great distances, Beringer said there is no evidence that mountain lion reproduction is going on in Missouri.
A mountain lion was sighted in Platte County on Nov. 26, and Beringer and other scientist are trying to determine if it is the one killed last weekend.
"We have hair samples from the mountain lion sighting in Platte County, so we’ll be able to test it and see if it is the same one," Beringer said.