Confirmed sightings of mountain lions in Missouri have been on the rise for over a year, prompting curiosity, concern and fascination for these elusive big cats. In response, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the University of Missouri/St. Louis (UMSL) are teaming up to host the two-day Cougar Ecology, Behavior and Verification Workshop on Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25, at MDC's Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood.
The workshop will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days. The headline guest will be Dr. James Halfpenny, renowned carnivore biologist and professional tracker. Joining Halfpenny will be Jeff Beringer, chairman of MDC’s Mountain Lion Response Team.
Halfpenny has examined and analyzed more than 500 mountain lion encounters with humans. Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer heads the team responsible for responding to and investigating all cougar sightings in the Show-Me State.
The workshop is geared for home and landowners, educators, naturalists, ecologists and any other outdoor enthusiasts. Halfpenny and Beringer will examine myths and present the scientific facts about mountain lions in Missouri. Topics covered will include biology of cougars, the latest information about their occurrences in Missouri, the cougar pet trade, and how these reclusive creatures interact with human presence.
This will be an in-depth training which will include hands-on demonstrations on locating cougar tracks and signs in the wild, identifying footprints and other ways to verify their presence, how to collect usable evidence, and determining the sex and size of the animals.
The fee for the two-day workshop is $125, plus $12.50 for the course workbook. Reservations can be made by calling 314-516-7250.
Halfpenny will also present a free public lecture entitled “Cougars in Missouri” on Friday, March 23, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Powder Valley.
Powder Valley Nature Center is located at 11715 Cragwold Road in Kirkwood, near the intersection of I-270 and I-44.
MDC receives many reports each year from people who believe they have seen mountain lions, but can only confirm those for which there is physical evidence such as hair, scat, footprints, photos, video, a dead cougar or prey showing evidence of mountain-lion attack.
According to Beringer, widely scattered mountain-lion sightings have been confirmed in Missouri and likely will continue. Evidence to date indicates these animals are dispersing from other states to the west of Missouri.
Beringer added that mountain lions are naturally shy of humans and generally pose little danger to people, even in states with thriving breeding populations.
For more information, visit www.mdc.mo.gov  and search “mountain lion.”