Are There Mountain Lions in New York? Everything You Need To Know

Mountain Lions in New York

Just imagine that you’re walking through the streets of New York City and suddenly you come face to face with a mountain lion. That would be wild, right? (Pun not intended.) But no, the Eastern cougar has been extinct for most of the last two centuries. So there’s actually very little chance of you meeting a mountain lion in the state of New York at all.

Are There Mountain Lions In New York?

Are you a resident of the state of New York and hoping to glimpse a mountain lion? I’m very sorry but we’re here to tell you that there aren’t any mountain lions in New York. Once upon a time, these big cats were native to the state. In fact, they called the length and breadth of the United States their home. 

But alas, they were wiped out from the eastern half of the country (except Florida) as humans built bigger and bigger cities and killed all wild animals along the way. The Catskill Mountains had been their home once. Now, the only mountain lions left live out west (although they may wander into the eastern states from time to time.)

You’ve probably heard a flurry of conspiracy theories that the DEC has released mountain lions into the New York wilds to control the deer population. The DEC absolutely rejects that claim. While there may be some solitary mountain lions roaming around the state, the official mountain lion count in New York is zero.

Mountain Lion Sightings In New York

Mountain Lions in New York

If you think you’ve seen a mountain lion in upstate New York, you aren’t the only one. Wildlife officials often get excited phone calls about cougar sightings. But actually, these sightings are usually of bobcats, fisher cats, coyotes, foxes, and even domestic dogs and cats. We are often so eager to see the mountain lion that our eyes trick us.

Rumors and news of sightings have become even more widespread since 2011 when a male mountain lion traveled all the way from South Dakota to the East. He passed through upstate New York before he met his tragic end on a Connecticut highway. We don’t know why he traveled so far and whether he was searching for new territories or a mate. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t find either. 

But his existence made people even more excited. Maybe the mountain lions were coming back east? But if they are, it’s going to be a long long time before it officially happens. After all, it takes much more than a solitary lion to repopulate an entire state.

What Big Cats Live In New York?

Neither jaguars nor mountain lions (which are the only two big cats found in the Americas) live in New York. A wild cat that people seem to always confuse with mountain lions and that does live in New York is the bobcat. 

Its color is similar to its bigger relative but bobcats are not only much smaller, they don’t have the long and fluffy tails that we automatically think of when we think about mountain lions.

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

Can You Shoot a Mountain Lion In New York?

Mountain lions are a protected animal in most states and you can’t hunt them indiscriminately. Some states do allow the hunting of mountain lions as a ‘game’ but New York isn’t one of them. After all, how can you hunt something that you aren’t even sure exists? 

If a mountain lion is attacking your livestock, you do have permission to shoot it. But you should inform the authorities at once so you don’t get into trouble otherwise. You don’t want accusations of selling the fur or pelt on the black market, do you?

What To Do If You See a Mountain Lion In New York?

Mountain Lions in New York

If you do see a mountain lion in New York, you’re witnessing a miracle. The first thing you should do is see if you can find any tracks or scat or physical proof to photograph. Otherwise, it would be like claiming to see a unicorn or Bigfoot. 

If you’re at a safe distance, you can take a picture of the mountain lion, it’s helpful but it would probably be too far away to be really solid evidence. While photographing tracks, a cool trick is to keep a ruler or coin next to them so the size becomes more obvious. Only then should you call the DEC. 

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation are a bunch of skeptics. They won’t even examine a sighting if you can’t provide some kind of proof. And you’ll probably still learn that it was a much smaller animal. Or a captive mountain lion that’s escaped its owner.

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 States In the US Have Mountain Lions?

It’s only the states in the west that have really high populations of mountain lions, like California, Utah, and Arizona. Officially, only 14 or 15 of the states have mountain lions as actual residents and not just guests. Some of the states with the highest estimated populations? Oregon, Colorado, and Texas.

Also, Read About Mountain Lions in Alabama


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

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