|Mountain Lion - MDC|
The range of the mountain lion was originally as wide as its aliases (cougar, panther, puma, catamount), extending from Alaska through South America. As civilization (more or less) expanded across the Midwest, bison were extirpated and other game decreased, their range contracted northward, centering around the Rockies.
From 1870 through the turn of the century, Silas Turnbo collected and published over 800 stories which he recorded from the Southern Missouri Ozarks. This collection included 151 stories which mentioned panther and another 24 about "catamount", an alternate name for mountain lion. Dramatic descriptions of chasing mail carriers, threatening babies in their mother's arms and even running through the house.
With their "lone wolf" habits and far greater range it isn't surprising that we occasionally find a panther in Missouri. Unlike wolves which generally live together and hunt in packs, these wanderers, usually young males, cover much more territory.
|Panther prowling in Branson area- MDC|
Some of the mountain lion reports may come from escaped captive specimens. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation's Mountain Lion Facts:
"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."
Sightings since 19
Given the loss of habitat due to urbanization, it is unlikely that the mountain lion will return to the top cat role of apex predator. However when it walks through a coyote's territory it probably becomes the "apex predator of the day."
|John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.|
This story is from Carl Haworth a few weeks ago:
|Click to enlarge.|
Now the expert's opinion: "The presence of claws and the arrangement of the toes definitely say “canine.” -James Dixon, MDC
The MDC has some good information comparing signs of cougar, bobcat and dogs at this site. Look it up and compare the print for yourself.
The history of Mountain Lions along the Arkansas-Missouri border is at this University of Arkansas paper.