PARKVILLE, Mo. — A morning walk at the Parkville Nature Sanctuary turned into an unexpected encounter for one man.

“I heard a little rustle over there and then he came here with his long tail out. He was kind of in a sleek position, and he looked at me. I was right there and I froze,” said Steven Davis, who described his encounter with what he believes was a mountain lion.

The frightening moment happened around 10:45 Monday morning near the trailhead.

Davis, who’s a music professor at UMKC, said he usually walks the nearly three-mile trail five days a week. He normally sees rabbits, squirrels, birds, and the occasional deer, but never something like this.

“My heart went from zero to a million,” he said.

Bobcats are known to frequent the area, but Davis is adament that what he saw wasn’t a bobcat.

“Bobcats tails average around 5 to 10 inches, and their fur is different,” he said. “This was mostly solid-color, like a mountain lion, and had some white underneath and a black tip to the tail.”

Unfortunately, the encounter took Davis by surprise and left him both terrified and speechless, meaning he did not snap a photo. He described the encounter as lasting five to six seconds before the animal went on its way.

In order for a sighting to be confirmed in Missouri, the State Department of Conservation needs physical proof like a photograph of the animal or of its scat and tracks.

“We have had, over the years, hundreds and hundreds of sightings that were investigated that proved not to be true,” said Bill Graham with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

In fact, the department said less than 1% of reports have yielded enough physical evidence to clearly confirm the presence of a mountain lion. However, that doesn’t meant sightings are illegitimate.

The state of Missouri’s had 115 confirmed reports of mountain lions since 1994, but the Kansas City metro only accounts for two of those reports. The first happened near North Kansas City in 2002, while the other happened in Parkville back in November 2010.

“It’s rare to see a mountain lion in this area, but it’s possible,” added Graham.

Most of the mountain lion sightings are young males who are on the lookout for bigger woods and better places. Graham said young males can travel hundreds of miles looking for a place to set up a territory.

So far, there’s no evidence that shows a reproducing population of mountain lions, according to the Department of Conservation. They believe most of the animals are coming from northwest Nebraska or the Dakotas where they have expanding populations.

If you happen to come across a mountain lion, do not panic. “Normally, they’re shy around people. They’re going to avoid people and dogs,” added Graham. “They prefer to be alone by themselves in the woods.”

Not only that, but mountain lion attacks are extremely rare, per the state, which posted the following on its website

“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, deadly mountain lion attacks have averaged one in every seven years since 1980.”

If you’re one of the few to spot a mountain lion, contact the Mountain Lion Response Team at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website.

Additionally, if you’re unsure what to do when encountering one, the U.S. Forest Service provided the following tips:

  • If you spot a mountain lion and the animal is unaware of you, alter your route so that you will move away from its area.
  • Never approach a mountain lion especially one that is feeding or with kittens.
  • Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation. Always give them a way to escape. 
  • Do not run. Remain calm. Hold your ground or back away slowly.
  • Continue facing the mountain lion, and maintain eye contact.
  • Do all you can to appear larger; Stand upright, raise your arms, raise your walking stick, open your jacket.
  • If you have small children or pets with you, try to pick them up without turning away or bending over.
  • Never bend over or crouch down, avoid looking like a four-legged prey animal . Again, Do not bend over to pick up a rock or stick off the ground. This action may trigger a pounce response in a mountain lion.
  • If the lion behaves aggressively, wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice, and throw objects like the water bottle in your hand. The goal is to convince it that you are not prey and may be dangerous yourself. 
  • Try to remain standing to protect your head and neck.
  • If attacked, fight back!! Use rocks, jackets, sticks to turn away the mountain lions.
  • Report any mountain lion encounters or incident to the local Ranger District, or Fish and Wildlife Office.