Rex Martensen, a member of the Conservation Department’s Mountain Lion Response Team (MLRT), said the landowner found large, cat-like tracks in a muddy creek bed while hunting mushrooms. He was near the town of Economy, northeast of Long Branch Lake, on April 20. The man took photos of the tracks and sent them to Private Land Conservationist Ted Seiler.
Rain washed away the tracks before a member of the MLRT could visit the site. However, Martensen said the tracks in the photo closely match the characteristics of mountain lion tracks. He said the MLRT needed no further evidence to confirm the presence of a mountain lion.
Martensen said one thing that stood out in the photos was the lack of claw marks.
“Even if a dog has well-worn toenails, as deep as these tracks went into the mud, you would have seen those pretty clear.”
Martensen said the Conservation Department is not trying to find the mountain lion that left the tracks. However, he said the MLRT wants to know when and where mountain lions appear in Missouri and is particularly interested in reports that involve photos, tracks, hair or other physical evidence.
Evidence from other confirmed mountain lion sightings in the past 20 years suggests that the big cats are coming to Missouri from other states where mountain lion populations have been growing. Martensen said mountain lions might show up in Missouri with increasing frequency as populations in northwest Nebraska and other western states continue to grow and expand.
Many unanswered questions remain about mountain lions in Missouri. In an attempt to answer these questions, the Conservation Department established the MLRT to review citizen reports thoroughly.
“We don’t know what mountain lions do or where they go when they get here,” said Martensen, “so pieces of the puzzle like this report are interesting and very helpful to us.”
For more information about mountain lions in Missouri, visit www.mdc.mo.gov/node/3505.
Send mountain lion reports, including photos or video, to firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can call Jeff Beringer, 573-882-9909, ext. 3211; Rex Martensen, 573-522-4115, ext. 3147; or Shawn Gruber, 573-522-4115, ext. 3262.
–By Jim Low, Mo. Dept. Conservation