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Cougar Sighted in St. Louis Suburb (And No It Wasn't Picking Up Young Men at a Bar)

Categories: Environment, News
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Missouri Department of Conservation
A trail camera caught this image January 12.
Let there be no mistake. The cougar sighted in Chesterfield this month was the real deal -- puma concolor, a.k.a. mountain lion, a.k.a. panther -- and was not, we repeat, not, a 40-something-year-old female homo sapien on the prowl for younger men.

The Missouri Department of Conservation confirmed the sighting yesterday. A trail camera photographed the big cat January 12 in a wooded area of Chesterfield -- approximately 20 miles west of downtown St. Louis. The conservation department is not providing an exact location of the sighting because they don't want people trying to mess with the animal; however, the location was near the Missouri River.

Conservation officials have long speculated that the growing number of mountain lions sighted in Missouri in recent years are males that follow rivers into the state from western territories. No evidence of a breeding population of mountain lions exists here.

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This map of confirmed cougar sightings does not include the one this month in Chesterfield.
"Young males seek new territories at about 18 months of age," says Jeff Beringer, MDC resource scientist and member of the Department's Mountain Lion Response Team, in a press release yesterday. "With most births peaking in the spring, young males typically begin roaming in their second fall and winter. And it makes sense that these big cats could roam into Missouri from the west and use the Missouri River corridor to cross the state without being easily detected."

The Chesterfield cougar is the third confirmed mountain lion sighting in Missouri in as many months. A landowner in Platte County contacted MDC in late November with photographs of a mountain lion in a tree on his property. On January 2, a hunter shot a mountain lion while hunting raccoons in rural Ray County.

The conservation department has confirmed just 13 actual cougar in Missouri in the past 16 years despite getting hundreds of calls and emails about the cats each year. Most presumed sightings turn out to be bobcats or dogs. MDC has no reports of mountain lions attacking humans or livestock in the state. It's illegal to shoot the animals in Missouri unless they're attacking livestock or threatening human safety.

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