Missourians call the big cats mountain lions, and they say the animals are again showing up in the Show-Me State.
Genetic material left on a dead elk found in Shannon County, amid the Mark Twain National Forest in southwest Missouri, was that of a mountain lion, the Kansas City Star reports.
“We’re in the very early stages of mountain lion populations settling into the region," University of Missouri wildlife biology researcher Matthew Gompper said.
In Illinois, residents have periodically reported sightings of the animals also known as cougars, pumas and panthers.
In May 2017, residents in Madison County reported an animal that screamed like the big cat. An Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologist did not see any signs of the animal at the time.
According to the nonprofit organization Cougar Network, the animal has been sighted in Randolph, Calhoun, Sangamon and Effingham counties, along with scattered sightings in northern Illinois.
The black panther remains elusive in Illinois, with the IDNR reporting that the animal does not exist naturally in the state.