Thursday, March 19, 2009

Eastern Cougars: The Myth Continues

Cougars, mountain lions, pumas, panthers, catamounts, whatever you wish to call them, do not exist east of the Mississippi river. Well, except for south Florida and there's only 50 or so of those. Yes there may have been some sightings in West Virginia, Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and yeah there's Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and even Maine and Delaware (yes, even in all three counties of Delaware). But, rest assured, all of these accounts are false. They are either bobcats, house cats or maybe just dogs. Well, there could be a couple of loose cats out there. Most likely these are escaped or dumped exotic animals. We don't keep records of these types of things, but we're sure it's completely explainable this way. Either way, mountain lions do not exist in any state east of the Mississippi (again, except Florida). That's our statement and we're sticking to it.

The above is the typical response you will get from any eastern state on the status of mountain lions from their respective wildlife or Department of Natural Resource officials. They all categorically deny the possibility of any number of cougars populating any state in the east. Despite growing numbers of sightings as well as evidence of sign (tracks, scat, hair, mauled prey) officials still have a list of excuses as long as a mountain lion's tail. Typically the response is a loose exotic pet. OK, so where did it come from? Don't they keep records on who owns these "pets"? No, no, what you saw was a bobcat, common mistake. Why do they always assume that the hunter who has seen bobcats before always mistakes a bobcat for a cougar (or even the person who has never seen either who perfectly describes a cougar from the color down to the long tail...umm, bobcats don't have much of a tail to brag about).

On the flip side of this argument one can agree that despite the numerous sightings in various parts of different states there does not seem to be any large population of these animals in the east. There has yet to be a carcass of a cougar from a vehicle strike anywhere on the eastern U.S. and this argument does provide the example that there is not a strong population established. DNR officials frequently track various animals to keep track of population as well as disease and other factors. These DNR officials are not coming across much in the way of evidence concerning cougars (or are they?).

There are many out there that feel that this denial is part of a larger conspiracy. Conspiracy? About cougars? Apparently many people feel DNR agencies do not want to pay to have to manage cougars and that denying their existence (or getting rid of them without our knowledge) keeps them from stretching their budget. Speaking of budgets, let's take that one a step farther. The state makes a killing, no pun intended, on licenses and related items spent on hunting seasons. If a predatory species were introduced (or found its way) into the ecosystem it would cut into the deer population. There is currently 600,000 estimated deer in Ohio (2006) and no natural predators other than humans (and vehicles). A cougar (or even wolf) population in the state of Ohio would provide many headaches and lost money for DNR folks so their denial is understandable, but is it possible for cougar to exist east of the Mississippi?

Let's consider the possibility: Did cougars once call this area home? Yes. Why are they no longer around? Hunting was the biggest culprit over the last 200 years. Other factors were changing land into farming area and depletion of food sources (mainly deer) in the mid to late 1800's and into the early 1900s.
But, aren't there plenty of deer running around now? In 1904 in the state of Ohio there were no deer. It took a few decades of natural re-growth as well as restocking programs to bring the deer back to Ohio. The same followed suit in a number of neighboring states. Now that the food source has been re-established, doesn't it make sense that a top predator is making progress toward reclaiming its former territory? Another possibility may be because of another predator; the wolf.

Wolves were driven from the U.S. the in many of the same methods as the cougar, but were even more feared as they traveled in packs and consumed more kill than cougar. Wolf populations exist in Canada and extend into Michigan and Minnesota. They were also reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995. Could these expanding wolf populations be driving cougars to areas of less competition?

There are, of course, other theories about how cougars could be in the eastern states. One theory is that they never really left the states east of the Mississippi. Somehow small collections of these animals avoided detection for decades and are slowly branching in every direction. As people sprawl out these animals are in constant search for places to hunt and live in a human-free environment. A second theory is that they have traveled here from the closest known area of thriving population, western North Dakota. Cougars travel amazing distances in short periods of time, mainly in search of food. The roaming theory has a major flaw in that it would be extremely difficult for males and females to mate if they were living hundreds of miles apart and would make it nearly impossible to have thriving populations. Then again, male cougars have been known to have territories as large as almost 300 square miles, but females typically have smaller ranges. Lastly, we could guess that numerous animals escaped or were dumped into the wild and have now somehow bred and created tiny populations. Highly unlikely, but a possibility.

So, what does this have to do with the paranormal? Well, cougars are not necessarily paranormal, but they are actually considered cryptids in the state of Ohio (since they supposedly do not exist here) and any sighting interests those who pursue cryptids. Hopefully this cryptid will eventually be confirmed in some eastern states. It's also interesting that a 9 foot long 160 lb+ creature can go undetected. Confirmation of this animal in Ohio and neighboring states may be a victory for Bigfoot researchers everywhere.

Here is a little more insight:

Eastern Cougar.Org reports that cougars have been sighted in numerous areas of Louisiana in areas which are just to the west of the mighty Mississippi river. I guess the river just mysteriously holds them back from populating the east coast.

Here is a video concerning the recent Chicago, Illinois sighting and eventual shooting of a cougar and the cover-up behind the ongoing saga of these animal sightings in Illinois:

*Deer-vehicle collisions cost an average of $2,600 in medical and mechanical costs. In 2003 there were more than 31,000 deer-vehicle collisions reported.

A sustained group of cougars will help naturally cull deer populations year round and hinder deer-vehicle collisions.

*Source: OurOhio.Org


  1. On May 6, 2012 while driving in the Wayne Forset, Monroe county, Ohio. I happened to look over as I passed a old shed or barn that was well broken down. As I passed it I glaced over and saw what I thought looked like a cougar. It was very large for a domestic cat and even bigger than a wild cat that I had seen in the past. Kind of tawny in color with a darker mussul. It had both paws on the ridge or what was left of the ridge of the shed and was looking downward as if looking for something (lunch?). Lower half of body wasn't seen. It was so quick, that I'm amazed that I remember it so well. I only looked for a moment and then stopped the car and backed up but it was gone. I just came to this site as I was surprized to see it and wanted to check how often they're are seen in Ohio


  2. Officials in Ohio say they don't exist here, but I know plenty of people who have seen them. These are ambush predators and seeing one without being its lunch is a rare privilege. The case for these creatures existing in Ohio and other states is mounting, but this will mean states will have to spend money protecting them (personally I think they are killing them when they find them). In the last five years there have been numerous documented sightings, though none that I am aware of in WNF, but it's the perfect place for one. Thanks for sharing your sighting!