A mountain lion killed an elk in rural southern Missouri earlier this month in what state officials are calling a “rare” event for the state.
Where the animal might have come from is a mystery, as big cats in the region are not known to breed. In fact, Missouri has no known permanent population of mountain lions.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, on Sept. 12, one of the big cats struck in Shannon County, which is just north of the state’s border with Arkansas.
“Reports of a mountain lion sighting were sent to MDC staff early on Sept. 12, and members of MDC’s Large Carnivore Response Team responded to the area later that same day to confirm the sighting,” the agency said in a media release last week.
The MDC added, “Trail camera images were used to confirm that a mountain lion was in the area and had returned to the elk carcass to feed.”
Images posted online show an elk carcass with the big cat in the frame.
WARNING: The following posts contain graphic images some readers may find disturbing.
We have confirmed the 117th mountain lion sighting in the state after the animal was documented killing an adult elk Sept. 12 in Shannon County.
— MO Conservation (@MDC_online) September 22, 2023
Here kitty, kitty, kitty!
Here are the images of the mountain lion with its Elk kill in Shannon County.
Missouri Dept. of Conservation Furbearer and Black Bear Biologist Nate Bowersack tells @Field and Stream
“We set up trail cameras on the carcass to see if the lion would… pic.twitter.com/SmHnUdiTFN
— Buffalo river watershed landowners rights (@RiverLandowners) September 25, 2023
MDC biologist Nate Bowersock said, “Mountain lions are natural predators to elk, and this scenario is nothing to be concerned about.”
According to the agency, only 117 mountain lion sightings have been reported statewide since 1994.
“Mountain lions are known to travel through Missouri, but there is no known breeding population in the state,” the MDC added.
Genetic samples were collected from the elk, and it remains unknown if the predator that killed it was male or female.
According to the National Park Service, big cats such as the one that killed the elk can grow as large as eight feet long from nose to tail.
Some of them weigh as much as 175 pounds.
Where the Missouri mountain lion came from and how far it traveled to get to Shannon County is a mystery.
States in the region have each reported mountain lion sightings in recent years.
But none of them are believed to have breeding populations — minus Nebraska, which shares a small border with Missouri but is hundreds of miles from Shannon County.
According to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the state has documented “at least one instance of reproduction” in recent years involving big cats.
The agency also noted, “Mountain lions — particularly young animals — can travel long distances in search of new territory.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.