Are There Mountain Lions In Kentucky? Everything You Need To Know

Mountain Lions In Kentucky

The mountain lion is a wild cat that goes by many names – puma, panther, cougar, and catamount, to name a few. They are one of the six wild cats that are native to North America. 

Within the U.S., they can be found in a variety of habitats- forests, mountains, deserts, you name it. They are lone cats that prefer solitude over community. They tend to stay away from most other carnivores and animals, including humans.

Are There Mountain Lions In Kentucky?

America and mountain lions go way back. Centuries ago, these cats dominated the feline population of the United States. Every state in the country had its fair share of them. However, urbanization in the early 20th century eliminated a large chunk of their population. Today, most American mountain lions live in the western parts of the country.

There are no mountain lions in Kentucky. They used to be quite common there- particularly the eastern cougar. Research shows that they completely disappeared from the same lands they called home in the 1930s. 

States like Kentucky haven’t supported a mountain lion population in decades, and they still do not. The eastern cougar was officially declared extinct in 2011, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Where Do Mountain Lions Live In Kentucky?

Mountain lions do not live in Kentucky. Before they went extinct, eastern cougars lived throughout the state of Kentucky. Now, there aren’t any left. There were a handful of sightings some years ago, but none of those were native Kentucky cats. 

Mountain lions often live in places with rocky canyons, steep mountains, or dense forests. These types of environments have a lot of natural hiding places, which come in handy while they are hunting. 

However, they are not too picky with their choice of habitats. What they care most about is food- especially deer. As long as they can hunt, they can adapt to any habitat. 1

Mountain Lion Sightings in Kentucky

Mountain Lions In Kentucky

Despite knowing that eastern cougars are extinct, Kentucky residents still keep an eye out for this big cat. Every now and then, the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources receives reports of potential cougar sightings. So far, only two reports have been confirmed to be legitimate sightings.

The first incident was in 1997 when a female cougar kitten was struck by a moving vehicle in Floyd County. Unfortunately, the young mountain lion died. Further testing indicated that it may have come all the way from South America, which means it was likely a runaway pet.

The second incident took place nearly 20 years later, in 2014. A male mountain lion was shot and killed by a conservation officer in Bourbon County. Experts speculated that the second cat could also have been an escaped pet, only from somewhere closer than South America. 

The closest population of mountain lions to Kentucky is Nebraska, but even they are separated by nearly 1,000 miles.

Can You Shoot A Mountain Lion In Kentucky?

Kentucky may not have any mountain lions, but there are certain laws to protect them nonetheless. Mountain lions are considered an endangered species, so putting them in danger is considered unlawful. The eastern cougar, particularly the one that lives in Florida, is an extremely endangered and well-protected species.

However, there are exceptions. Anyone is technically allowed to kill a mountain lion in self-defense, or in defense of another person. This rule applies to most of the wildlife in Kentucky.  

Can You Own A Mountain Lion In Kentucky?

Mountain lions belong and always have belonged, in the wild. They are extremely territorial and require large areas of land to survive. There are no longer any wild mountain lions in Kentucky. The state has also banned the possession of mountain lions as pets, as of 2005. 

If you want to own a mountain lion, some states can help make your dream a reality. Delaware, Mississippi, Indiana, and other states allow you to own cougars, as long as you have a permit. Other states like Nevada and Alabama don’t even require that and have no restrictions. 

Also, Check Our Guide On Mountain Lions In the U.S.

What To Do If You See A Mountain Lion In Kentucky?

Mountain Lions In Kentucky

Mountain lions have only been spotted twice in Kentucky over the last few decades. The chances of running into one in this day and age are very slim. You’re more likely to encounter a bobcat than a mountain lion.

If, however, you do find yourself face-to-face with a mountain lion, here’s what you should do. For starters, try to remain calm. Don’t run away in panic. Mountain lions don’t consider humans as prey, so as long as you don’t anger them, you should be fine. 

Next, try to show the mountain lion who’s boss. Stand up tall, raise your arms, and do everything you can to look big and scary. If this doesn’t work and it decides to attack, you can still fight it off and survive. Try to remain standing and use whatever you can find around you to fend it off.

What Big Cats Live In Kentucky?

Mountain lions share Kentucky with one other wild cat- the bobcat. Bobcats are also called red lynxes and are closely related to Canadian lynxes. They have medium-sized bodies, but very large paws that help them walk through snow. 

Bobcats were once even more plentiful than Kentucky cougars. But, like most other wildlife at some point or another, their population was reduced too. Until 1974, they were considered a rare species. But better days are coming because their population has been steadily increasing ever since. Now, they can be found in almost every single Kentucky county.


And that was everything about the Mountain Lion in Kentucky. I hope this article answers your questions.

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