Cougar may have been wild

? The mountain lion killed this week in Kansas City showed no signs that it had been kept in captivity, an expert said.

“If it was found anywhere other than where it was, I’d say it was a wild animal,” said Dave Hamilton, a biologist in Columbia who leads the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Mountain Lion Response Team. “But the location where it was found makes it suspicious.”

A car struck the mountain lion also known as a cougar early Monday on Interstate 35 in north Kansas City. Police officers later shot the mortally injured cougar in a nearby yard.

It is the sixth confirmed mountain lion found in Missouri since 1994. The last documented free-roaming cougar was shot in 1927 in the Bootheel area, Hamilton said.

Hamilton and other experts examined the cat Tuesday in Columbia for evidence of its origin. They said the 125-pound male was 7 feet, 1 inch from nose to tail tip and 2-3 years old.

Hair found in its digestive system could be from a deer, Hamilton said. If so, it would mean the cougar was feeding in the wild.

Pen-raised animals sometimes have tartar buildup on their teeth. But this cougar’s teeth were clean as if it had been chewing on bones. There was no unusual wear on teeth or gums, like that which occurs when captive cats chew on bars or wire. And Hamilton found no tattoos or ear tags, commonly used on captive animals.

Missouri has issued 37 permits for people to keep dangerous native wildlife such as cougars, black bears or poisonous snakes, said Bob White, who supervises state conservation agents. Just one permit is in the Kansas City area, and authorities said that person has no cougars.

Kansas has issued five permits for cougars in Johnson, Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties in suburban Kansas City, said Rob Ladner, a regional law enforcement supervisor for the state’s Department of Wildlife and Parks. Statewide numbers were not available.

But authorities in both states say cougars often are kept and sold illegally, sometimes dumped in the countryside.

“People buy them when they’re cute and cuddly cubs,” said Richard Harrold, a law enforcement special operations chief for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. “Then people find out how much they eat. They think they can turn them loose.”