CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Mountain lions may be making their way back into Missouri.
Officials said the large cats haven't been reproducing in the Show-Me State for nearly a century, but with new sightings, they believe that could be changing.
"We have a running tab of how many have been cited and this recent one was the 72nd reported mountain lion that was confirmed," said AJ Hendershott with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
He said the animal has been considered extricated since 1920.
"What that means is the animals live elsewhere they don't live and reproduce and have a viable population within the state," said Hendershott.
A professor with the University of Missouri said mountain lions are slowly moving eastward from the western part of the country, and are in the early stages of settling in Missouri.
But Hendershot said this news shouldn't make you fear to enjoy the great outdoors.
"I'm very concerned about being outdoors, I like to be outdoors I consider ticks something to be prepared for I like to know what poison ivy looks like and avoid that," he said. "I like to know where snakes hang out and not put my hands and feet in those locations lower down on the list is my concern about mountain lions. These animals are like the cowardly lion on the Wizard of Oz. They do not want anything to do with us."
Should you happen to come across one, Hendershott said don't panic.
"Look large, intimidating - don't back off if you do feel like you need to get out of the way," he said. "Back off but don't turn around and run that's the kind of thing you want to avoid."
The last confirmed sighting in southeast Missouri was September 2017 in Iron County.
For a list of all 72 sightings in Missouri click here.