JOPLIN, Mo. — Mountain lions are rare in Missouri, but sightings of the big cat are increasing. Conservationists believe this is a sign of a healthier environment in the region.

In 1927, the big predator was wiped out in Missouri. However, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) confirms five to ten sightings each year of mountain lions wandering into the area from western states. But, in the first month of 2023, there were four sightings. The most recent was a 150-pound male cat, hit by a vehicle in Franklin County near St. Louis.

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

The MCD said there is no evidence of a breeding population in the state, and plans to reestablish one do not exist. But, that doesn’t mean a breeding population in Missouri won’t begin in the future.

According to a biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, more sightings of mountain lions could be a consequence of people buying trail cameras to monitor their homes or favorite hunting spots. Most sightings though, turn out to be false in Missouri. However, regular activity each year could mean the animals are at least passing through, as they move from the west, the biologist stated.

Mountain lions can travel more than 800 miles from their original homes. DNA suggests most are coming from western portions of the Dakotas and Nebraska.

Mountain lions are territorial, so when young males reach a certain age, they are forced to move out of an area to find deer; the big cat’s primary food source — and in Missouri, the deer population is abundant. These conditions are ideal for the large cats to naturally reestablish themselves within the state.

Ultimately, more mountain lions show that conservationists are doing a good job at taking care of the landscape and conserving wildlife, claims Missouri’s Department of Conservation.

MDC agents say it’s important to report all mountain lion sightings. The more places where sightings are reportedly occurring, the more equipped conservations will be if a mountain lion population is established in the state.

The MCD encourages the submission of photos or videos of mountain lions in Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s website features a section for reporting a mountain lion sighting, which you’ll find HERE.