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

Mountain Lions In Indiana

Spotting a mountain lion in the United States isn’t like going on a safari in Africa and seeing their more social cousins. Either you’re lucky enough (or unlucky enough, depending on how you come across them) to see one. 

After all, one of their names is Ghost Cat (along with cougar, puma, panther, and catamount). And given that if you throw a dart at the map of the USA, less than half of the states you would hit have no mountain lion populations, what are your chances of really seeing them?

Are There Mountain Lions In Indiana?

If you want to know the official position, then no, there aren’t any mountain lions in Indiana. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources says that mountain lions were extirpated (in simple words, all killed off by human beings) in the 1800s. Since then, no mountain lion has officially lived in the state.

Then how does that explain all the sightings? Well, just imagine that you were born and brought up in California and then had to come to Indiana for work or for a visit. It doesn’t change the fact that legally you’re a citizen of California, right? But it also doesn’t mean that you aren’t in Indiana. So that’s the case with the mountain lions roaming around the eastern states.

There’s been a lot of sightings in the last few years because the mountain lion populations in the west have really gone up (now that we aren’t indiscriminately hunting them). So adventurous young males are venturing towards the eastern states. They’re like mountain lion pioneers. And we find traces of them in tracks and fur and scat samples even if we don’t actually see them.

Mountain Lion Sightings In Indiana?

The DNR actually is quite meticulous about checking up on sightings and keeping reports. Every state wants to think that they’ve got big wildlife living there, right? So they do investigate all sightings. The only confirmed sightings in the last few years were in Clay County in 2009 and in northern Greene County in 2010. Was this the same animal? The sightings were so close to each other that it wasn’t impossible.

In 2019, Benton County had a panicked reaction when the police reported a mountain lion sighting. DNR looked into it and, it was a domestic cat. Talk of a comedown. But that’s actually not unusual at all. Domestic cats, bobcats, coyotes, and raccoons often get mistaken for the big cats, even on trail cameras. We suppose people just see what they want to see.

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

Can You Shoot a Mountain Lion In Indiana?

Mountain Lions In Indiana

Mountain lions are protected in Indiana, like many of the other states, as an ‘exotic species’. You can’t shoot them like a ‘game’ (which you can in Texas or Oklahoma). But if one single lion is causing damage to your livestock or your property then you’re allowed to shoot it. 

If you get someone else to shoot it for you, that person must get a permit from the DNR. And you have to report the death immediately unless you want to get in big trouble with the authorities.

Can You Own a Mountain Lion In Indiana?

Indiana’s actually one of those weird states where you can own just about any animal as a pet, from mountain lions to African lions. You just need a license or a permit. But mountain lions, like a lot of wild animals, don’t do well in captivity. 

There’ve been many cases all over the country where captive mountain lions have escaped and become a menace to the neighborhood before being recaptured. They don’t know how to hunt or survive in the wild but they don’t like being confined either. They roam around city streets and highways and scavenge in dumpsters. It’s a mess.

What To Do If You See a Mountain Lion In Indiana?

Mountain Lions In Indiana

You might ask, how can I see a mountain lion in Indiana if there have only been two sightings in the last two decades? Well, you probably won’t but it doesn’t hurt to know what to do, right? Do you run or do you freeze? We’re here to tell you that you definitely shouldn’t do the former.

Here’s something you should know: a mountain lion is even more scared of you than you are of it. If you run, it might chase you but if you hold your ground and stare it down, it’ll probably just run away. 

Try to appear even bigger than you are by waving your jacket and arms over your head and speaking loudly and firmly and the mountain lion is sure to be intimidated. If you’ve got a child or a pet with you, keep them close since the smaller it is the more of a target it is.

And once you’ve successfully scared off the mountain lion, absolutely inform the DNR about it. They should be the first to know there’s a big cat roaming around where it isn’t supposed to.

Also, Read About Mountain Lions in Iowa

Are There Any Big Cats In Indiana?

Since jaguars and mountain lions live almost exclusively in the western states, you might be sad to learn that there aren’t any big cats in Indiana. They’re the only kind of big cats found in the Americas, after all.

What Indiana does have is the bobcat, which people always confuse with a big cat. It’s a mistake because not only is the bobcat not big enough to qualify, but it also doesn’t have the long tail that mountain lions do. It’s called a bobcat exactly because of the ‘bobbed tail’. Mountain lions, fascinatingly, have tails that are almost half their total body length.


And that was everything about the mountain lion in Indiana. I hope this article answers all your questions.

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