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The Vandalia Leader office received a photo submission from someone wishing to remain anonymous of what was hoped to be Audrain County’s first confirmed cougar sighting.
It was a house cat, according to Missouri Department of Conservation officials.
The photo was taken by a game camera on August 18 near the intersection of Highway W and Highway BB.
“There’s no doubt the cat in the picture is a house cat,” Rex Martensen, Field Program Supervisor for the Conservation Department, said.
“The markings aren’t the same as a mountain lion, and the structure is somewhat different,” Martensen said. “When you have a picture of a mountain lion, there’s usually no mistaking what you have.”
According to the department’s website, the nearest sighting of a cougar to Audrain County was in August 2003 when the officials confirmed one male road-kill victim. The department has confirmed 29 cougars statewide since 1994.
“The mountain lion stuff is a very hot topic,” Martensen said. “It’s very passionate and very charged.”
He said when the department gets pictures of suspected mountain lions, they do their best to verify if it’s truly a mountain lion or if it’s something else,
Martensen said occasionally the department gets house cat and bobcat photos or has to investigate sites of a suspected sighting.
“We have to look into those things before we go saying what it may or may not be,” he said.
Martensen said that sometimes a confirmation is possible, but the photo of the cougar was taken in another state.
He said though it is thought that Missouri has a population, the state doesn’t. “We get wonderers,” he said.
The wonderers are young males that likely come from South Dakota, Colorado, or Texas. There has been no verification of any females, or any reproductive activity.
Male mountain lions have a range from 100-200 square-miles, which varies depending on habitat and the availability of food. Female cougars have ranges that are much smaller, up to 50 square miles.
“They’re pretty rangy critters,” Martensen said.