Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 23rd, 2007
Word has reached Cryptomundo of the death of one of the major Midwestern figures researching the question of the reality of pumas existing in Missouri.
Dave Hamilton (left), Missouri Conservation Department Resource wildlife biologist, is showing examining a 105 pound puma found killed on Highway 54 shortly before midnight August 11, 2003, near Fulton, Missouri. Discovery of dark spots on its flanks and hindquarters, and barring on the inside of its front legs caused Hamilton to change his mind from this being an older puma to a finding it was a year-and-half or year old animal.
The Fulton animal was not overweight as found with captives. Its teeth were clean, as seen regularly in wild pumas. There were no obvious signs that it was formerly a captive animal. DNA analysis revealed its origin to be North America. It had a worm-infested (road-killed?) local gray squirrel in its stomach.
Mountain lions or pumas have been declared extinct in Missouri since 1927. They were extirpated from Iowa by 1867, Nebraska by 1890, Kansas by 1904 and from Wisconsin by 1908. The only place they are recognized to exist in the Midwest is the Black Hills of South Dakota, despite sightings in Missouri, Illinois, and other Plains and Midwestern states. Hamilton was interested in discovering if they were back. He documented several Missouri finds, although he remained doubtful about reports of black panthers.
Dave Hamilton, a longtime wildlife biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation who specialized in furbearers, died [September 8th, 2007] at his home in Columbia.
Hamilton, 52, helped direct policies for black bears, cougars and river otters as those creatures returned to the wilds of Missouri. He also was known nationally and internationally for his work on humane trapping methods, and he represented the U.S. three times during talks on international trade of furs.
“Dave’s effectiveness was a result not only of his energy, humor and creativity, but also of the genuine respect he held for people of all ideologies and walks of life,” said Dan Witter, a retired Conservation Department planner.“Noted Wildlife Biologist Dies,” Kansas City Star, Sept. 13, 2007.
Earlier this year we brought you the story of a mountain lion near Chillicothe. On that cold January afternoon, we had the pleasure to talk to Dave Hamilton from the Missouri Conservation Department.
After spending time with Dave, it was easy to see what a passion he had for his job. As a wildlife biologist, Dave probably knew more about big cats in Missouri than anyone else. We are very sad to report, Dave passed away earlier this month at the age of 52. In this day and age of high technology, Dave used simple technology to verify mountain lion sightings in the state. Now we’ll remember a demonstration with Dave.
“This is Max, we call him Max because he is maximum size of an adult male mountain lion from Colorado,” Dave said. “There are different sizes depending on what part of the country. Colorado has the largest, this is on the upper end of an adult male. So Max, if Max were real, he would weigh about 150 pounds. He’s about 8 feet long, they get up to 9 feet. He’s about 8 feet long.”
“Obviously the mountain lion can be controversial,” saysLarry Vangilder of the Department of Conservation. “And you know he [Dave] could work with people, he could kinda steer them towards what the real issues were with the mountain lions, and help them see the track was really a dog track, and not a mountain lion. So there was a teaching element there.”
“We want to line it up as best we can with the acutal spots, and take some measurements off the photograph, and give us an estimate about the size of the cat that was here,” Dave said later in his demonstration. “That’s for an adult male, his shoulder comes to right there. So this is, people think that thing is as big as an elephant. Well, it’s as big as a mountain lion.”
“His job obviously was incredibly important to the Conservation Department, and to the resources of the State of Missouri,” says Vangilder. “You know there are just some elements, you just can’t replace Dave, no doubt.”
The Missouri Department of Conservation doesn’t know who’s going to replace Dave, but we do know, his death was a huge loss when it comes to tracking mountain lions across Missouri.
Though those of us he left behind wonder how we will replace him, Hamilton seemed to be at peace. On the day of his death, Hamilton wrote in his journal “I need to show God every day how much I look forward to being with Him in Heaven.”“Remembering a Missouri Mountain Lion Expert,” KOMU, September 22, 2007.
For now, the official population status of mountain lions in Missouri is extirpated. The cats won’t have Dave Hamilton around to prove otherwise any longer.