Every cat lover is familiar with the mountain lion. If you don’t know it by that name, perhaps you’ve heard it be called the puma, panther, cougar, or catamount. Whatever name you choose, this wild cat has woven its way into North American and South American history. It’s a mammal with the second-largest range in the Western Hemisphere.
But do they reside in Arkansas? Let’s find out!
Are There Mountain Lions In Arkansas?
According to Wildlife experts, there are no native Mountain lion species living in the state of Arkansas. Coming to the United States, mountain lions were once found in the majority of the country.
However, excessive hunting in the 1800s led to a huge population decline. Today, there are only around 20,000-40,000 of them. Most of the present mountain lions are concentrated in the western regions, like Colorado and Oregon. One subspecies of eastern cougars, the Florida Panther, is a protected species in Florida.
Arkansas was once home to native mountain lions. However, like most of their eastern brethren, they disappeared from the state in the 1920s. For many years after that, they were believed to be extinct. Only in the past few years have there been confirmed sightings. This has led some people to believe that mountain lions may be returning to the state.
How many mountain lions live in Arkansas?
Despite their earlier setbacks, there may be around 20-30 mountain lions living in Arkansas. This figure is based on multiple confirmed sightings over the years. However, this number should be taken with a pinch of salt. Though it is true that there were definitely mountain lions, there is no proof that they were there to stay. Currently, there’s no evidence of a breeding population of mountain lions in Arkansas.
That being said, things can always change, and it seems as though they might! The fact that mountain lions are slowly coming back to the state is a huge green flag. Mountain lions are highly adaptable- they can make any kind of terrain their home. Arkansas’s widespread forests and beautiful ranges provide great habitats for the future reintroduction of mountain lions.
Mountain lion sightings in Arkansas?
The 21st century has seen an increasing number of cougar sightings in Arkansas. These sightings bring with them the hope that these animals will soon return to the state. Mountain lion sightings are confirmed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
From 2010 to 2018, there were 14 confirmed sightings in Arkansas. In 2014, a deer hunter killed a large male mountain lion in Bradley County. This was the first time a mountain lion had been killed in the state since 1975. AGFC biologists received the carcass, and sent a hair sample to a facility in Montana for DNA testing. The test concluded that the cat came all the way from Black Hills- which is hundreds and hundreds of miles away!
The last confirmed sighting was in 2018, when a private landowner submitted a trail camera photo to the AGFC. The image showed a big cat, and the institute confirmed that it was indeed a mountain lion.
Can You Shoot A Mountain Lion In Arkansas?
In the past, states across the country offered bounties for killing a mountain lion. Today, that system has been all but eradicated to protect whatever population remains.
Like many states, Arkansas does not classify cougars as a game species. This means that people are not legally allowed to trap, hunt, or shoot them down. However, exceptions are made in cases of personal safety.
The hunter from 2014, who killed the mountain lion, claimed he did so in self-defense. Killing may be pardoned if it’s done to protect yourself, your children, your pets, or even your property from the lions. All instances of shooting must be reported to the AGFC.
Can You Own A Mountain Lion In Arkansas?
No, you cannot own a mountain lion in Arkansas. Mountain lions are considered large carnivores. They are apex predators that have evolved to hunt prey 2-3 times their size. They like to roam through large expanses of land. They need plenty of space and meat to survive, which isn’t an easy task to provide.
To own a mountain lion, you would need to be a registered wildlife breeder or dealer. Once you are, you need to get a mountain lion permit.
Don’t despair yet! Arkansas allows people to own other types of wild animals including- but not limited to bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, and snapping turtles.
Also, Check Our Guide On Mountain Lions In the U.S.
What To Do If You See A Mountain Lion In Arkansas?
It’s not easy to spot a mountain lion. Most of them will do whatever they can to avoid humans. They normally stay in isolated regions and only come out at night, when people are fast asleep. That being said, there have been encounters with mountain lions in Arkansas as well as other states.
If you see a mountain lion from a distance, you can take a picture and report the sighting to the AGFC. They will investigate and confirm its existence. If however, you see a mountain lion up close, then pictures are the last priority.
What matters is your safety. Don’t panic or run, because that will trigger its wild instincts. Instead, you must slowly back away from the cat. Keep your body upright- don’t bend or crouch over. As long as you appear bigger, it won’t consider you as prey. Raise your arms and wave them around.
Open your coat if you’re wearing one. Speak loudly in a stern and firm voice. Throw whatever you can find- rocks, twigs, logs, etc. without bending over. Worst case, if the mountain lion attacks, fight back with anything you can find nearby.
Are There Any Big Cats In Arkansas?
Arkansas is nicknamed the Natural State because of its abundant flora and fauna. The state is home to two major wild cats- the mountain lion (as mentioned earlier in this article) and the bobcat.
Bobcats are one of Arkansas’s apex predators. Also known as red lynx, this cat is closely related to the Canadian lynx. Like the mountain lions, they can easily adapt to any habitat. All wild cats resemble each other quite a lot, which is why one is often confused with the other.
Bobcats usually weigh around 20-30 pounds and stand at a height of 1-2 feet. Their “bobbed” tails are only a few inches long, unlike the long tails of their mountain lion cousins. In Arkansas, they hunt and feast on rabbits, hares, and small rodents.
There have also been rumors of large black cats in Arkansas. Many believe these to be black panthers, which are found in South America and Africa. However, officials are yet to confirm these reports.
Also, Read About Mountain Lions in California
And that was everything about the Mountain Lion in Arkansas. I hope this article answers all your queries.