Here is my best attempt to give you the nuts and bolts of the meeting (long, sorry)
The meeting was held in NE MO at North Shelby High school Wednesday, February 23 and the place was very full. A few people tried to count how many were there and I think most estimates were between 150 and 200 people. There were probably a dozen MDC employees there with the main speakers being Dave Hamilton, Lead for the Furbearers group, and Eric Kurzejeski, outreach programs chief. There were several other folks that shared their knowledge about mountain lions from the MDC but these two guys were probably the main ones, specifically Mr. Hamilton.
Dave Hamilton gave about a 30-40 minute presentation on the history of mountain lions and how to distinguish them from bobcats and how to distinguish their tracks from a dog. He says they have received over 800 reported sightings since they developed the Mountain Lion Response team in 1996 (I think) but only 8 have been confirmed in this state since like 1994 by photo, tracks, scat, or road kills. He mentioned the rumors and pictures (most of which have been on here before) that go around on the internet and had some proof that they were taken in other states or were photoshop projects. He was pretty adamant that its not that they donâ€™t believe people when they â€œsayâ€ they have saw mountain lion / cougars but that they just need physical evidence to â€œconfirmâ€ and officially record it.
Their best guess is that most of these cats that are showing up in the Midwest are males from an established population in the black hills of South Dakota that are getting pushed out because of the territorial nature of the animal, the others â€œmightâ€ be captive animals that have gotten loose.
As far as shooting them goes, he stated the wildlife code permits killing them on your property if you or your livestock are threatened. It was stated several times by the MDC folks last night that if you feel threatened, shoot them. Then you must report it in 24 hours so they can come get the animal for evidence. They were very liberal I think in their opinion on what was â€œthreateningâ€ and basically by the end of the meeting I think everyone in the crowd felt like they were telling us that if you shoot them and you â€œfeelâ€ (used very loosely) that you were threatened you would not get in trouble.
The answered lots of questions from the crowd and were pretty straight forward and honest I think. They said the DID NOT or never even thought of releasing them. They said there is no such thing as a â€œblack pantherâ€ only black leopards or black jaguars which arenâ€™t game animals. One guy in the crowd said he has a black cat on his farm, the District Supervisor said that is NOT a game animal in this state and you can kill and keep it.
The main theme though is that 90% of the people there didnâ€™t want them and voiced that opinion. Those in attendance asked why they are protected and if this group will now go back to their superiors and try to get something accomplished that there is a season or some legal way to shoot them with no â€œthreatâ€ needed.
Iâ€™m sure there was stuff I left out so fire up some questions and I will see if they covered it.
All in all a very good meeting and the MDC handled themselves very well in my opinion!