JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX) - Mountain Lion sightings are up across Missouri.
In fact, as KMOX reported earlier, there have now been more than two-dozen documented sightings statewide since the mid-1990′s.
The latest occurred earlier this month in Grundy County in north-central Missouri, a sighting verified in a photograph captured by a trail camera.
Experts say this is not necessarily cause for alarm.
“Occasionally they can be aggressive to humans, but it’s pretty rare,” Jeff Beringer, furbearer biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said as a guest on KMOX’s Total Information AM Thursday. “I think there’s like one person attacked every eight years in the whole of North America.”
He says in the case of mountain lions, the old adage holds true: they’re as scared of you as you might be of them.
“It’s just their nature to be secretive,” Beringer explained. “They want to avoid people. They’re going to run, they’re going to get up in a tree.”
So what factors are behind the increased number of sightings in recent years?
Beringer said he believes one of the oldest motivations of all may play a part — the search for love.
“We’re seeing a high rate of dispersal of cats coming from the west, where their populations are saturated,” he explained. “It’s in the nature of these young males to take off and try to colonize new areas, and they’re searching for females.”
The problem there is that there’s a dearth of female cats in Missouri, Beringer added, so these frisky males wander far and wide, becoming more likely to come into contact with humans.