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Increase in Mountain Lion Sightings in the Midwest [PICS]

Flickr / Valerie

The mountain lion population was nearly wiped out in the early 1900s. Almost 100 years later, they're making a comeback.

Mountain lions, also known as pumas, panthers, catamounts and cougars, once roamed all of North America. However, their population numbers plummeted as hunting increased and the population of their prey decreased.

Flickr / Valerie

Over the past decade, sightings of this rare mammal have increased throughout Kansas and Missouri.

The Department of Conservation stated they received reports of more than 50 confirmed mountain lion sightings in Missouri and 10 in Kansas since 1994.

Flickr / Valerie

According to researchers in those two states, the mountain lions seem to be transplants from other states in the western U.S. They are also almost all males, which means they are not reproducing in this area.

"It would be a long shot for a female to wander this far," said Matt Peek, research biologist at the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Female mountain lions tend to stay close to their mothers, so they typically don't wander off.

Flickr / Tambako The Jaguar

Conservationists see these mountain lion sightings as a success, which they attribute to land management and other conservation efforts. Mountain lions are also protected under the Wildlife Code in both Missouri and Kansas.

A true repopulation will not occur until they begin breeding in those areas.

Mountain lion sightings might be a conservation success, but they are still a cause for concern. They are wild predators and will attack if threatened. However, attacks on livestock, pets, or people have not occurred in Kansas or Missouri.

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Increase in Mountain Lion Sightings in the Midwest [PICS]