He has been released at Peck Ranch; same reserve the 30 Elk were transplanted to; from Arkansas:
Centerville lion first recorded trapped in Mo. history
CENTERVILLE – Admittedly it wasn’t what Reynolds County trapper Wayne Henson expected to see when he approached his large cage live trap Wednesday afternoon. What waited inside was a Missouri oddity … a mountain lion.
Henson is now credited with the first live capture of a mountain lion in Missouri’s recorded history, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. He caught the 122 pound cat in the woods by Cook Spring, near Sutton’s Bluff north of Centerville off county road 828 in a section of the Mark Twain National Forest in Reynolds County.
“It was kind of strange to walk up and see it,” Henson said afterward. A part-time trapper with about 30 seasons under his belt, he had been targeting bobcat and other furbearers. In the past year he’d caught 15 bobcats. He accumulates and sells his furs annually.
Jeff Beringer, MDC biologist with the department’s Mountain Lion Response Team based in Columbia, Mo., traveled to Centerville, the county seat of Reynolds County, to take possession of the mountain lion. After sedating the animal he weighed and measured it, gathered details to determine its age, took DNA samples and notched its ears for future reference. He determined the cat was a 2 year old male weighing 122 pounds. Afterward he released it back into the wilderness southwest of Ellington in the Deer Run area.
All wildlife is protected under the provisions of the Wildlife Code of Missouri. However, the Code provides for the taking of wildlife during prescribed hunting and trapping seasons and under other circumstances, such as when mountain lions are attacking or killing livestock or domestic animals or threatening human safety. Henson said he discovered the cougar, another name for a mountain lion, in the live trap Wednesday afternoon. He knew the circumstances wouldn’t allow him to dispatch it and keep the hide, but also knew he had no desire to stand close enough to the trap to open the door to let his unusual catch out. He said the cat was obviously agitated anytime he went anywhere near the trap.
Eventually he decided to wire the door closed on the trap as a safety measure. Using caution, he worked a piece of wire through the metal panels enough to feel comfortable the door would not accidently come open during transport. He called on a friend to help him load the trap and its catch in the back of his pickup truck.
The trapper called Reynolds County Conservation Agent Eric Long and told him what he’d caught. Long notified Beringer, who said he would be in Centerville by mid-day Thursday.
Henson works as a county commissioner in Reynolds County. On Thursday morning he took the big cat to work with him, at least to the parking lot of the courthouse. The magnificent animal drew a steady stream of onlookers until Beringer arrived.
The MDC biologist and local agent took possession of the animal and transported it, along with Henson’s help, to the area outside Ellington where it could be studied in private. It was sedated and the necessary information gathered. Then the men moved a safe distance away and waited for it to wake up and move into the thick wooded area.
Henson said Beringer told him it’s likely the mountain lion was ranging from its home in South Dakota in search of a female. Missouri has seen a growing number of mountain lion sightings in recent years, with 14 confirmed discoveries in 2011. The MDC has repeatedly said the big cats were apparently ranging further southeast than normal, and excused the idea that Missouri has an established population of cougars.
But the rash of lion sightings in 2011 works to prove there may be a population of mountain lions living and breeding in the Show-Me State. Of the 14 documented in 2011, three were either killed or found dead, and 11 were confirmed by photos, video or tracks, scat or other sign.
Henson said he hadn’t seen any indication of a mountain lion in the Cook Spring area prior to catching one in his trap. But a road and bridge worker in Reynolds County did report seeing a cougar cross the road on Route J between the towns of Oates and Black in late December. There have been several other unconfirmed sightings in the state in addition to the 14 documented cases in 2011. To date there have been confirmed lion sightings in 17 Missouri counties.
MDC wants to learn more about mountain lions in the Show-Me state. A “Mountain Lion Response Team” has been formed and can be contacted at email@example.com.