I am a big animal lover, and for the most part, I believe animals should be left alone in their natural habitat and just exist as nature intended.  If you get to see one from a distance, especially if they are rare, it can be quite cool.  But these are wild animals, and they can be dangerous.  If you happen to encounter one, you may want to just avoid them and get to a safe spot.  Here are 4 to be on the lookout for:

Bobcats

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Getty Images/iStockphoto
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According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, bobcats are usually seen around the Ozarks and Bootheel, but they have expanded north-ward and westward.  In Missouri, bobcats prefer heavy forests with thick underbrush, broken by rock outcroppings, bluffs, glades, clearings and timbered swamps. They require an extensive range for hunting with thickets, caves and crevices for rest, shelter and dens. Overall, they are generally a shy animal and leave humans alone, but don't take chances.  You can read a bit more HERE.

Black Bears

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Getty Images/iStockphoto
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Black bears are not that unusual in Missouri.  The amount of them, however, has been increasing.  The Missouri Department of Conservation is conducting a study over the next few years to pinpoint just how many black bears live among us in Missouri. Preliminary estimates put the number at between 540 and 840. Don't leave out any food that may attract them in your yard.  I wrote an article earlier this year that you can read HERE that goes into more details.

Mountain Lions

Mountain Lion standing on rock
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Sightings of mountain lions have increased in Missouri in recent years.  They were declared extinct in the early part of the 20th century.   A nocturnal animal, mountain lions tend to keep to themselves and are often confused - at least from a distance - with bobcats and sometimes even ordinary house cats.  The last sighting was in May of 2022, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.  They may slowly become more of a fixture in our state.

Grey Wolf

Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) Portrait - captive animal
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Gray wolves hold protected status in Missouri. They aren't often seen in our state, but they are on occasion, as they may have traveled from Minnesota, Michigan or Wisconsin.  They are considered a federally endangered species.  You can learn a bit more about them HERE. Sightings are rare in Missouri, just don't confuse them with coyotes.

Have you seen any of these animals around the state in any of your travels? Be careful if you do.  If you are lucky and get a nice picture, count your blessings.

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