Cats may be apex predators, but they can also be highly secretive animals that may be hard to find. This is especially true of wild cats that are not comfortable with human interaction. This reclusive nature can make it difficult to know if there are any wild cats that even live in your state. In some states, what wild cats are present is up in the air at any given time.
Often, anecdotes and second-hand accounts drive peoples’ knowledge of the wild cats in their state. If you live in Missouri, you may have wondered if you have any wild cats in your home state. Here’s what you need to know about wild cats in Missouri.
Are There Wild Cats in Missouri?
Believe it or not, there are two types of wild cats in Missouri: bobcats and mountain lions. However, bobcats are far more prevalent than mountain lions. Many people will go their entire lives without spotting bobcats or mountain lions in the wild, but you are far more likely to spot a bobcat in Missouri than a mountain lion. What you are most likely to see, though, is domestic cats, which can become feral without human intervention, essentially making them wild cats.
Without human interaction, domestic cats can become feral. Feral is when an animal that has been domesticated becomes wild, and cats seem to be the most common animal this occurs with, although it also occurs with everything from dogs to horses. Feral cats can be damaging to the natural environment due to their propensity for killing wildlife and their ability to spread disease. The risk of disease and parasite spread is especially high in feral cat populations that aren’t managed through TNR programs that fix and vaccinate the animals.
Bobcats are relatively small wild cats, with adults weighing anywhere from 8–40 pounds. They tend to be larger than your average domestic cat, but this is not always the case. These shy cats rarely make public appearances, but they sometimes show up on properties near heavily wooded areas.
They may enter properties that have easy food sources, like chickens, especially when food is scarce. This is unusual, though, and bobcats usually feed on small animals like squirrels, rabbits, birds, and rodents. These fantastic cats tend to be successful hunters and can jump upwards of 10 feet to attack prey.
Also known as cougars, pumas, panthers, painters, and catamounts, mountain lions are large wild cats that can be exceptionally fearsome when encountered. Luckily, these shy cats are rarely seen. Only a handful of mountain lion sightings have been reported in Missouri in the last 30 years. This is partly because they are so reclusive but primarily because they are solitary cats that have experienced significant habitat loss and hunting at the hands of humans.
They are exceptional cats, though, capable of running around 50 miles per hour. They are considered a keystone species, which means they are a vital part of the environments in which they live. They help to support diversity and keep the population of prey animals in check. Due to their size and hunting prowess, there are essentially no animals in Missouri that couldn’t become prey to a mountain lion.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in the Southern US, you know just how hotly debated the presence of black panthers is. Some people believe that there is a solid black variety of mountain lion that exists, although biologists have never found evidence of such an animal. The pictures of these creatures are often Bigfoot quality and rarely have anything in the photo that allows for size comparison. Most black panthers are actually large domestic cats seen from a perspective that makes them look much larger.
Believers in the black panther may have rejoiced in 2008 when a large black wild cat was killed in Neosho, Missouri. Many people felt this was the proof that the scientific and anecdotal communities have been searching for. Upon examination of the carcass, though, it was found that this cat had been declawed. It was determined to be a leopard, which is native to South and Central America and was an escaped pet.
Today, bobcats seem to be thriving in Missouri, but these cats are not often seen due to their tendency to avoid humans. Mountain lions seem to exist only in populations of cats passing through the state due to the exceptionally large range these cats inhabit. However, care should still be taken when hiking and exploring the wooded parts of Missouri. Bobcats and mountain lions can be exceptionally dangerous cats, especially when they feel threatened.
- You may also be interested in: Are There Wild Cats in Pennsylvania
Featured Image Credit: LocoLocal, Pixabay