Ripley County farm trail cameras confirm mountain lion sighting

Thursday, November 1, 2012

STRINGTOWN, Mo. -- A second mountain lion sighting has been confirmed in Southeast Missouri in the last few weeks.

The latest involved a cat captured by two separate trail cameras on a northeast Ripley County farm off County Road K-5 by Lee Ray Pickrell. The photos were taken just after 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

"I just about fell out of my chair," said Pickrell, who owns the property and trail cameras. "I was just checking a couple cameras I have set out on some food plots for deer Monday night, and when I got home on the computer, it was about the 12th photo on the card. I started yelling for my wife to come look."

Pickrell said he has not seen any other evidence of the large cat.

"It just popped up on the camera," he said.

Cameras mounted about 100 yards apart on separate food plots captured three photos.

"I was freaked out bad," he said, "and I called about 20 people," including Ripley County conservation agent Darren Killian, a 13-year veteran. Killian never has seen evidence of a mountain lion in his county.

"I hear stories all the time of people seeing mountain lions," Killian said, "but nothing's ever been confirmed. With all the trail cameras people have out now, I figured it was about time to get a picture of one."

Killian immediately went to Pickrell's farm to look at his photos, and Tuesday scouted the location at which they were taken.

All the trees and other elements in the photographs were confirmed, Killian said. He filed an incident report with the Conservation Department's Mountain Lion Response Team, which certified the sighting.

Killian told Pickrell it was the first confirmed sighting of a mountain lion in Ripley County,

Resource scientist Jeff Beringer, who heads the response team, said heavy barring visible inside the animal's legs in the photographs indicates it is a younger male and typical of most mountain lions seen in Missouri.

They travel extensively looking for new territory, he said. DNA evidence suggests most cats originated in the Black Hills of South Dakota or a handful of western states.

The Ripley County cat, Beringer said, appears very "beefy," indicating it has been eating well.

Although the cat likely has moved on, Pickrell's family is a bit hesitant to enter the area for a youth deer hunt this weekend.

"I hold a big youth hunt here every year, and this messed up my hunt," he said. "The girls don't want to go out there this year."

As far as hunting the area himself, Pickrell is concerned.

"I'm a little leery of walking out there in the dark, even though it's very unlikely anything would happen," he said. "A friend who hunts here with me already has bought a pistol to carry with him."

Another sighting of a mountain lion occurred Oct. 10 on the Current River Conservation Area, about five miles south of Ellington, Mo. That cat also was captured by a motion-activated trail camera.

The location was not far from where a male mountain lion had been released in January by conservation department officials after a Reynolds County commissioner captured it in a live box trap.

Because mountain lions typically are extremely mobile, Beringer believes the cat that was photographed in October most likely was not the same one released in January.

"I would be very surprised if the cat we released stayed for very long," he said. "It's just not their nature. It is interesting, though, that cats seem to keep finding that area."

With Missouri's youth and regular firearms deer seasons looming, Killian cautions hunters about shooting a mountain lion.

"I tell everyone, ‘If you see one 200 yards away and it's walking away from you, you can't shoot it,' " he said. However, " ‘if one is being aggressive toward you, you can protect yourself and your property.'"

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