Update: Hunter won't be charged for shooting mountain lion

This mountain lion was shot Jan. 2nd 2011 in Ray County. It weighed 115 pounds and stretched 6 ½ feet.

Update: Thurs. Jan. 27th at 12:30 p.m.: Conservation officials tell KRCG that the hunter who shot and killed a mountain lion on Saturday will not be charged with a crime because the hunter said he felt threatened.Under Missouri's Wildlife Code, mountain lions are a protected species that may be killed only if they attack or kill livestock or domestic animals or threaten human safety.The group of 12 hunters were on an Amish farm looking for coyotes when they stumbled upon the male lion.The hunters told conservation officials that the cat came out from under a "Sida" tree just 20 yards away from one of the men. The hunter was on foot and shot the mountain lion with a shotgun, according to the Missouri's Mountain Lion Response Team.The mountain lion is now in Columbia for an autopsy and other tests to see what the animal TMs been eating, and if it's related to a mountain lion killed recently killed in Ray County. Original Story, Tues. Jan. 25th: Hunters shot and killed a mountain lion over the weekend in the Missouri town of La Plata.La Plata sits on Highway 63 between Macon and Kirksville.A group of hunters looking for coyotes Saturday instead came within 20 yards of the mountain lion, and shot and killed the animal.The Missouri Department of Conservation says it happened on land owned by an Amish man. State officials estimate the mountain lion weighed 130 pounds. It was the second mountain lion killed in Missouri this month and the fourth Missouri sighting of a mountain lion -- also known as a cougar, puma or panther -- since November.The killing of the mountain lion in La Plata comes just 10 days after a stationary wildlife camera in Chesterfield caught images of a mountain lion.

The Missouri Department of Conservation isn't yet sure if it is a wild mountain lion or if it belongs to one of the 32 people in the state who have permits to keep captive mountain lions, said Joe Jerek, a spokesman for the department.The Jan. 12th Chesterfield sighting is the first confirmed sighting of a mountain lion in St. Louis County since 1994.

Conservation officials told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch they believe the animal was most likely passing through Chesterfield in search of territory or a mate.

The pictures show the big cat making its way around a tree, its head slung low. The lion's sex and age aren't known.

Garrett Jensen, a hunter and outdoor enthusiast, set up the camera in Chesterfield on a tree to monitor wildlife in the woods behind his home. The camera is triggered by heat and movement.

Jensen was out of town on Jan. 12, when the camera automatically snapped a series of photos about 2:30 a.m. He was surprised to see the images when he got home.

"I was like, `Oh, my God,' I really couldn't believe it had happened," said Jensen, 36, the owner of a tree service company. "I called everyone close to me and said, `You're not going to believe this, I caught a mountain lion on my camera."'

Earlier in January, a hunter told conservation officials he shot and killed a mountain lion in Ray County.

James McElwee, 29, of Camden County shot the mountain lion on Jan. 2 after his dogs treed the mountain lion while he was hunting raccoons.

Conservation officials said the cat weight 115 pounds.Mountain lions are a protected species that may be killed only if they attack or kill livestock or domestic animals or threaten human safety.

Deforestation and hunting essentially drove mountain lions out of Missouri by the 1920s, and the state has not had a breeding population in several decades. Jerek said the nearest groups of mountain lions live in Nebraska and South Dakota.

Conservation officials said there is no evidence suggesting mountain lions are re-establishing a population in Missouri.

"In states where even small populations of these big cats exist, there is plenty of hard evidence," Beringer said. "Florida, for example, has a population of only 100 mountain lions, yet several are killed by automobiles each year. They also have other clear, hard evidence like tracks, scat and kill sites."So, what do you do if you see a Mountain Lion?Rex Martensen with the Missouri Department of Conservation told KRCG that mountain lions are usually scared of human beings, but not to run if you see one.

"The best thing to do is not run because it can trigger a response mechanism to chase you. The best thing to do is make yourself appear big, Martensen said. They don't like to fight with something, if they don't think they can win. Then be sure to back away slowly."Missouri Department of Conservation asks if you have pictures or any type of evidence that you think a mountain lion is close by please call them at (573) 751-4115.(The Associated Press contributed to this story)