Saturday, 18 June 2011


Mountain lions are big, scary cats, kind of like tigers, except without the stripes. They eat deer and elk and sheep and cows and basenjis and even greyhounds. So that is why I was alarmed to learn that two mountain lions have been seen right here in Missouri during January. And by "seen," I mean "shot and killed," so there is no question about whether they were really mountain lions. Also, besides the two that were shot, another one was photographed this month near St. Louis by using one of those special cameras that goes off if something walks past it. And another mountain lion was photographed in the same way last November in the county where the Kansas City airport is.Back in the old days, mountain lions used to live all over North and South America, including in Missouri.  This was when there were just Indians living here.  But after the European settlers came, they shot the mountain lions and also the deer that the mountain lions ate.  So the mountain lions moved more to the west, which is where they mostly live today.

An adult mountain lion can be anywhere from 60 to 102 inches long, and its tail is 21 to 35 inches long.  Males weigh 140 to 160 pounds, and females weigh 90 to 110 pounds.  There are 2 or 3 kittens in a litter, and they have cute little spots on them.  They hang out with their mom until they are about 18 months old, and then they go off to find a territory of their very own, especially if they are boys.

The places mountain lions like to live are either where the land is rough and rocky, or else where there are thick swamps.  They don't like to live near people, and they mostly only come out at night to slink around and hunt.  It's pretty rare for a mountain lion to attack a person, but sometimes they kill livestock or pets, and that's why people don't like to have them around.

In Missouri, it is illegal to kill a mountain lion, unless it is a danger to your livestock or to your life.  The lion that got killed on January 2 was in Ray County, which is just a little ways north of Kansas City.  Some men treed this mountain lion while they were hunting raccoons, and then they called the man who owned the land they were hunting on.  He came and shot the mountain lion because it had been eating his livestock, and it was legal for him to kill it.

Then this past Saturday, in northeast Missouri, some farmers who were hunting for coyotes were shocked when a mountain lion suddenly came out from under a cedar tree.  So they shot it.  This mountain lion weighed 128 pounds and measured more than 6 feet from head to tail.

Both of these animals were young males, and they were probably just here trying to make a territory for themselves because older males won't let them hang around.  The wildlife scientists are going to use DNA to find out where the dead mountain lions came from, but they think it was from North Dakota, South Dakota, or Texas.  People have been seeing mountain lions in Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma, so these are all probably young males looking for mates.

The people at the Missouri Department of Conservation say that there are no mountain lions breeding in the state, and there are no plans to bring any here to start a new population of mountain lions.  The reason they don't want to do this is because they decided there would be too much danger to people and livestock here if we had a whole bunch of mountain lions.  So the ones that come to Missouri are probably just passing through.  It's kind of sad when they get shot, though.  I think it would be better just to give them a nice bus ticket so they could go back out west someplace to live.

I'm glad we won't have a whole bunch of mountain lions moving in around here because I don't want to worry about getting eaten by one whenever I go out in the back yard.  Of course, if there was a mountain lion in our back yard, it would be legal for Mom to shoot it, but she wouldn't because (1) she doesn't have a gun, and (2) she doesn't know how to shoot a gun -- except that her dad let her shoot a rifle a few times when she was a kid, and (3) she would probably be too busy running into the house to get away from the mountain lion, and (4) if she and all of us dogs were already safe in the house, Mom would probably feel sorry for the mountain lion and wouldn't want to kill it anyway.

Okay, so that's pretty much all I have to say on the subject of mountain lions in Missouri.  Except I will just add that if there are any mountain lions reading this, you should be warned that farmers shoot mountain lions here, so maybe you had better stay away!

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