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Amish Hunters on "Predator Hunt" in Missouri Kill Mountain Lion, Won't Be Charged

Categories: Environment
laplata lion.jpg
Missouri Department of Conservation
This lion killed Saturday in northeast Missouri weighed 128 pounds.
For the second time this month hunters in Missouri have shot and killed a mountain lion despite laws protecting the animals. And once again, no one will be charged with violating the wildlife code.

Matt Wolken, northeast supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation, tells DailyRFT that the hunters who killed a 128-pound mountain lion Saturday in northeast Missouri feared for their lives.

According to Wolken, about 90 Amish farmers were involved in a "predator hunt" January 22 in which they hire "English men" (a.k.a. non-Amish) to drive them around to different hunting sites. Around 3 p.m. Saturday, the men had surrounded a multi-acre farm near Macon and were walking to the center of the property, looking for coyotes and other small predators.

"These are small farmers who lose chicken and other animals to coyotes each year," explains Wolken. "They have a legitimate concern with hunting predators. They use shotguns and ignore other game they come across."

Wolken says the men had no idea they'd stumble upon a mountain lion. "One of them walked past a cedar tree and the mountain lion appeared out of nowhere. It was about twenty yards away -- two hops and a pounce -- and it scared him to death. He shot it, and the animal went running past another hunter who also fired a shot."

The animal lay down, and a dozen men surrounded the animal thinking it was dead.

"It popped up and was shot again and died," says Wolken.

Missouri Wildlife Code strictly prohibits the hunting of mountain lions, though they can be killed if they're attacking livestock or domesticated animals or threatening human life. Wolken says that he and his investigators have no doubt that the first two men who shot the cat Saturday had a legitimate fear for their safety.

Rex Martensen, head of MDC's Mountain Lion Response Team, says he's aware of the public perception that can come from Saturday's killing and the decision not to charge the hunters.

"We don't want people to think it's open season on mountain lions in Missouri," says Martensen. "We do not condone the indiscriminate killing of wildlife."

mt lion map missouri.jpg
Map shows the locations of confirmed mountain lion sightings in Missouri since 1994. Saturday's killing (red circle) occurred in Macon.
And while that shooting may have been justified, it's harder to make the same argument with the killing of a 115-pound mountain lion in Ray County on January 2. That's when James "Jimmy" McElwee and his dogs treed a mountain lion while out hunting raccoons. McElwee shot the trapped animal and then had a friend lie to investigators saying that he shot the animal and not McElwee.

Even after MDC officials determined that McElwee and his friend were fibbing, they still didn't press charges, believing that McElwee actually feared for his life.

But did a mountain lion trapped in a tree really pose a threat to McElwee? Especially considering he was armed and protected by dogs?

According to the conservation department's own website the "risk of a mountain lion attack in Missouri is very, very small -- almost non-existent. People, livestock and pets are at much greater risk from automobiles, stray dogs and lightning strikes than they are from mountain lions." Moreover, there is no substantive evidence that mountain lions have attacked livestock, pets or people in Missouri; the big cats tend to avoid people at all costs.

Martensen tells Daily RFT that the difficulty in charging people for shooting mountain lions is that fear is a subjective emotion.

"That's an issue that's going to come up at the investigation stage, the prosecutorial stage and the judicial stage. What was the true level of threat?" says Martensen. "The problem we have here in Missouri is that the animals are so unknown. People think they pose a much bigger danger than they do."

Martensen can't explain why so many mountain lions have been spotted recently in Missouri. Just last week the Missouri Department of Conservation confirmed the sighting of a mountain lion in suburban St. Louis. Another mountain lion was observed in November in Platte County in western Missouri.

That's four in three months. Since 1994, there have only been 14 confirmed sightings of the animals in the state. Prior to that a cougar hadn't been seen in Missouri since one was shot in the bootheel in 1927.

"With the number of raccoon and deer hunters we have in this state -- not to mention the thousands of trail cameras we have -- if there was a large number of cougars in Missouri, we'd know about it," Martensen tells Daily RFT. He believes the cats wander here from western states and don't breed in Missouri. "We'd also be having a lot more mountain lions hit by cars -- one every few months instead of every few years."

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15 comments
Chuckfinley1990
Chuckfinley1990

If you were in the woods and came upon a Mountain lion can you honestly say you would just walk away. It's still a wild animal and you have no clue what it's going to do, even if they rarely attact humans it could still attack you. You could just walk away and it could attack while you have your back turned.

Babramsonknockouts
Babramsonknockouts

I have spent a very hard night in the missouri woods deep enough to be sure that mountain lions made it here.It's unfortunate that they were mostly shot but the few that are in this area are surviving well.Its wet enough,theres enough deer theres enough space to live here that way.Dont come near us at night we dont answer and we dont allow anyone to see us at night.We wont die here and well be somewhere else.We can still hunt injured and we can still fight hungry.Leave us mostly alone or we do attack.By Brian Abramson

Saw a cougar
Saw a cougar

I saw a cougar about twenty years ago whiledeer hunting the Salt River Valley not too many miles from the kill site. At that time I was asked by a conservation officer not to publicize it as the locals would kill it. He was obviously correct. I wouldn't expect much else from the people who I have met who live around there. I seriously doubt that these cats pose a threat as the sightings have been so rare and yet they have been around this whole time. If they were going to hurt people it would have already happened.Unfortunatly an education program would probably only backfire as these gents would only be more aware of the cats presence and hunt them for the trophy. They hunt deer and turkey out of season what makes you think they will observe the law?- no I'm not talking about the Amish. Just stop in the bar in Madison MO and you will see what I'm talking about.

Damien
Damien

I dont think the lose of chickens and other small animals justify rounding up 90 people for a hunt. MDC sets up seasons for hunting. Period! And both animals were not a threat until instigated by hunters. Hiding behind the "its coming right for us" rule is a pussy move.

Daniel Jamtgaard
Daniel Jamtgaard

Why even have a law if you're not going to enforce it, this is ridiculous

JD
JD

i guess a lot of you forget the whole "innocent until proven guilty" part. can any of you prove they werent in danger? because its up to the state to prove it, its not up to the hunter to prove they were.

chip
chip

I have a farm not very far from the kill site in Macon county and have several Amish friends that were on that hunt. I do not blame them for shooting the cat as they were concerned and excited . I do not think that we need to destroy everything that we do not understand. I think it would be a good idea if the conservation commission was straight forward and set up some community meetings for a better understanding of this large and interesting animal

smokesandbooze.blogspot.com
smokesandbooze.blogspot.com

"But did a mountain lion trapped in a tree really pose a threat to McElwee? Especially considering he was armed and protected by dogs?"

Absolutely. Considering that is the prefered attacking posture of the cougar...I would say McElwee was in danger. The fact that he was armed has nothing to do with this posing a threat, as waving a gun at the cougar would have the same effect as waving a stick. The cougar doesn't know what a gun is.

If I saw a Cougar in my horse pasture, I would shoot it on sight. No questions asked. What is particularly funny...that the MDC has a MDC's Mountain Lion Response Team. Do we really need this?

In the end, I think the both parties were in the right about killing...although Mr. McElwee should have just fessed up and said he shot it vs lying.

donala1
donala1

It is quite obvious that the Missouri Department of Conservation needs to initiate an educationalforum in the communities involved!

Leakol2000
Leakol2000

Hunters are trigger happy and just want to kill for bragging rights some once should cap them in the ass for killing these animals/. COUGAR1

Kooz
Kooz

1) A tree can be used by a mountain lion to ambush prey. What was described was not an opportunity for the ML to ambush the guy (ambushes require the prey not suspecting it). It's a stretch to say the guy was in danger because he shouldn't have let his dogs pursue the ML once it was uncovered. He was in no danger at all. He should have called his dogs off, stood his ground, then slowly walked away. But he chose to pursue it and kill it. He needs to be fined. 2)You have no right to shoot an animal outside of hunting season and is doing nothing to you or your animals. As someone who works and lives in an area with mountain lions, they leave you alone. Deer are on their menu: not us. Neither men in this story were justified in shooting these animals. The amish guys should have held their ground (never run away from a ML) and waited to see what it would do. But they were cowards, scaredy cats if you will, and chose to shoot it.If ML's are in your area, a proper education is all you need. Not ignorant platitudes that won't help us coexist with these animals.

Jsisco1
Jsisco1

I cetainly agree and I think they should be prosecuted

STLNEWSMOD
STLNEWSMOD

Tell us what you know about the hotels Pullman's Suite! Seriously, though, it seems you can go cougar hunting any where in the state -- not just Macon. Just tell the conservation officials you were skeered of the kitty.

Clinton Thomas
Clinton Thomas

It's obvious you're not familiar with the practice of coon hunting with dogs. These guys didn't "let" their dogs pursue a mountain lion. They most likely didn't even know it was happening. When you hunt with dogs, you turn them loose and follow at a distance, following the sound of their barking. The sound changes when they "tree" an animal, at which point you run to the sound. These guys were probably more than 100 yards away when their dogs found the mountain lion. They probably thought they were about to shoot a raccoon or a possum until they looked up.

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