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

If you want to see most of the big cats, you can go on safari in Africa or Asia. Chances are good that you’ll spot them with time and patience. Not so with the American mountain lions. Once upon a time, they thickly populated the two continents, from Canada to Chile. But now their numbers have died out and in the US, they’re restricted to a few of the western states. 

Are There Mountain Lions In Idaho?

According to the Idaho wildlife experts, there are native mountain lion species living in the state of Idaho. 

If you live in Idaho, then congratulations! You can proudly state that mountain lions live in your state. Yes, they live away from human populations and you’ll be hard-pressed to see them. But at least they’re native to Idaho. They haven’t died out because of overhunting and loss of habitat (like they have out east).

The shy, majestic big cats are stealth hunters and tend to avoid human beings. Because of this, they’ve been seen as villains for ages. Our ancestors thought the sly nature of the cats meant they were a big threat and hunted them right, left, and center. (It’s not true. Mountain lions aren’t interested in conflicts with humans and rarely go after livestock.) 

The only reason they didn’t go completely extinct is because they prefer to remain hidden and invisible. If they lived out on the open grasslands, we’re sure they would be even more endangered than they are now. 

How Many Mountain Lions Live In Idaho?

There’s no official mountain lion count in Idaho. To be fair to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, it’s quite difficult to keep track of the exact number of big cats in the state. They wander around a lot and don’t understand state boundaries, so they may be in Idaho one day and in Oregon or Montana the next. 

But since hunting mountain lions is allowed in Idaho, you’d think they’d be more careful about recording numbers. Just to ensure that overhunting isn’t happening. Too many dead lions would upset the entire ecological system, after all. 

Rough estimates place the number of mountain lions in Idaho at 2000. Sounds like a lot, right? But Oregon claims to have three times that number and we’d do well to keep that in mind. 

If Idaho doesn’t want its mountain lions to die out eventually, it really needs to step up its game. The first step? Coming up with an official estimate of mountain lion numbers.

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

Where Do Mountain Lions Live In Idaho?

Mountain Lions In Idaho

Idaho actually has ideal mountain lion territory and 97 percent of the state is suitable for the big cats. The only place that isn’t inhabited by the lions is the Snake River Plain. Open lands like that don’t suit mountain lions well (since they’re ambush hunters and need forests and rocks as cover). 

Idaho’s full of mountains (even being home to large stretches of the Rockies). It’s got the highest percentage of forest cover of any of the states and isn’t densely populated by humans, all of which makes it heaven for cougars. Sadly, Idaho probably doesn’t hold as many mountain lions as it could have.

How Common Are Mountain Lions In Idaho?

The simple answer is we don’t quite know. We don’t know the exact number of lions in the state. Nor do we see them very often. We know how many lions are killed every year (between 400 and 600) but we don’t know what percentage of the total population that is.

Since we don’t have too much information, we assume that Idaho has a healthy mountain lion population 2000 mountain lions are a lot. But biologists and wildlife enthusiasts have expressed concerns about hunting. Even seasoned hunters have stated that unless Idaho limits hunting and starts taking their mountain lions seriously, they will die out. Maybe not today or next year. But before very long.

How Big Are Mountain Lions In Idaho?

Pretty big. Idaho is quite far north and the closer we get to the poles, the bigger the mountain lions get. They’re Idaho’s biggest cats and full-grown males can weigh more than 200 pounds. They can also reach a length of nine feet from the nose to the tip of the tail (their super-long tails make up half of that). 

Females are obviously smaller. About 120-140 pounds and seven feet in length. Their shoulders would stand about waist-high for an average man. Quite scary to think about meeting them in the wild, right? But don’t worry. That’s quite unlikely.

Can You Own a Mountain Lion In the US?

Mountain Lions In Idaho

Many of the US states allow the ownership of ‘exotic’ pets if you’ve got a permit. Mountain lions aren’t any different. Different states have different laws about owning mountain lions so you should always do research about the state and county you live in. Idaho isn’t one of the states that allow mountain lions to be kept as pets.

When all is said and done, a mountain lion is a wild animal and doesn’t do well in captivity. It needs large territories and can get aggressive when locked up. There’ve been issues with lions escaping captivity and wreaking havoc in the neighborhood. You should probably think twice (or thrice or even four times) before keeping a mountain lion.

Can You Kill a Mountain Lion In Idaho?

Yes, you certainly can. Mountain lions are ‘game’ in Idaho and shooting them is permitted ten months in the year. In fact, Idaho has faced a lot of backlash because it doesn’t limit the number of mountain lions you can kill in a year. As many as 400-600 mountain lions are hunted yearly in Idaho. Compare this to a state like Montana where about 100 mountain lions can be hunted per year.

Even big game hunters are trying to get Idaho to make proper laws about their cougar populations. Soon there won’t be any mountain lions left to hunt if this doesn’t stop. Idaho wouldn’t want to be like the eastern states where the big cat went extinct.

Also, Read About Mountain Lions in Illinois

What Other Big Cats Live In Idaho?

Only three breeds of wild cats live in Idaho – the mountain lion, the bobcat, and the Canada lynx. Of these, only the mountain lion technically counts as a big cat. (It doesn’t belong to the Panthera genus and it can’t roar but it gets honorary membership into the club.)

The only other kind of big cat found in the US is the jaguar and it’s only found in little pockets in the southwest. It definitely doesn’t live in the cold climates up north.


And that was everything about the Mountain Lion In Idaho. I hope this article answers all your questions.

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