KIRKSVILLE, MO. Michael Sharpe was sitting in his tree stand on private land in Lewis County at 1:30 p.m. New Year's Eve when a large, adult mountain lion appeared.
Sharpe, 18, had opted to "hunt" deer with a video camera instead of with his bow, and he documented the big cat's passage on tape. It wasn't until he viewed the video tape that he realized he had seen a mountain lion.
Conservation Agent Gene Lindsey, who has chased down his share of mountain lion reports that couldn't be substantiated, watched the tape and visited the scene of the sighting before declaring it "irrefutable."
Lindsey said the cougar appeared to be hunting. The undulating landscape, with a mix of crop land, pasture, hardwood forest and cedar thickets, harbors a thriving population of white-tailed deer, the mountain lion's primary prey.
Sharpe's sighting brings the number of confirmed mountain lion reports in Missouri in recent years to five.
Two other cougars have been videotaped, both in the Ozarks. Another was treed by two rabbit hunters' beagle hounds in January 1999 in Texas County.
The fifth case involved a mountain lion killed by poachers in 1994 in Carter County near Peck Ranch Conservation Area.
Five confirmed mountain lion sightings aren't many, considering the fact that the Conservation Department receives hundreds of reports of sightings each year. Most end up being classified "improbable" or "unconfirmed."