KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Mountain lions may be making a reappearance in Missouri after being declared extinct in the state in the 1920s.

The Kansas City Star reports that genetic material left behind on a dead elk in Shannon County confirmed the presence of a mountain lion. The material matched a mountain lion that had been trapped in 2012.

Experts say there's not yet evidence of a permanent breeding population, but it may only be a matter of time.

Mountain lions are slowly moving eastward from the western part of the county, said Matthew Gompper, a University of Missouri wildlife biology researcher.

"We're in the very early stages of mountain lion populations settling into the region," he said.

A female mountain lion may be the catalyst needed to create a permanent population, said Tood Meese, a member of the Missouri Department of conservation's mountain lion response team.

"Then the males will lock up that territory and we're established," he said.

Mountain lions are reclusive and primarily nocturnal, experts said. The two closest populations of mountain lions are in Texas and South Dakota.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has only confirmed about 70 mountain lion sightings in the state since the 1990s. The department's mountain lion response team has received hundreds of reports annually, and reports have recently increased, said Alan Leary, the team's co-leader.

Sightings are only confirmed with tracks, a body or a photo. Most of the confirmations have come from photos captured on trail cameras.

"A lot of them we'll never know for sure," Leary said.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com