Are There Mountain Lions In North Carolina? Everything You Need To Know

Mountain Lions In North Carolina

You hear the words mountain lion or cougar or puma and you think of America. These animals are said to roam the entire length and breadth of the two vast continents but that’s actually a common misinterpretation. 

Take a guess how many of the US states have mountain lion populations. It’s actually only 15 and all of them are to the west of the country (apart from Florida which continues to struggle with a small endangered population).

Are There Mountain Lions In North Carolina?

Did you know that mountain lions have been extirpated from the eastern half of the United States of America for the last 100 years? Wait, you’ll ask, what does extirpated mean? Well, in simple terms, it means the people of that region managed to completely wipe out the entire population of mountain lions. 

Sure, disease and lack of prey contributed but rampant hunting and poaching was one of the biggest factors. As settlers started clearing more and more land, wild animals (both prey and predator) began disappearing.

So no, there aren’t any mountain lions in North Carolina. They were officially declared extinct in 2011 but given that there have been no mountain lions in the east since the 1930s, we think it’s pretty safe to say they’ve been gone for a while.

Are There Black Mountain Lions in North Carolina?

Mountain Lions In North Carolina

Before we can answer that, we must ask the question, “Do black mountain lions even exist?” And the answer to that seems to be a definite no. The only kind of black big cats we’ve managed to find so far are black jaguars and black leopards (and even they have faint markings in their fur). Mountain lions are strictly tan in color and don’t seem to have the pigmentation that gives black cats their color.

What makes this confusing is the fact that mountain lions or cougars are often called panthers but black panther is only used to refer to black jaguars and tigers. Maybe we need to come up with separate words for all our big cats. 

Since leopards don’t live in the US at all and the only jaguars are a precious few found in Arizona, if you claim to see black panthers in North Carolina, it’s probably wishful thinking on your part. 

Of course, spotting wildlife is exciting, no questions about that, but it’s just not realistic for black big cats to be roaming around North Carolina. Bobcats, on the other hand, are a distinct possibility since they can be black as well and there have been confirmed sightings of black bobcats in North Carolina.

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

Mountain Lion Sighting In North Carolina

Mountain lions are extinct in the eastern part of the country so why on earth do we keep hearing about mountain lion sightings there? It’s fascinating how many calls wildlife officials get about seeing one in North Carolina, Connecticut, or Missouri. They say it’s more than 100 calls per year. It looks like people really want to see one of the elusive animals with their own eyes.

What about the Connecticut lion,” you might argue. If one mountain lion crossed over into the east, why not more? But imagine you’re a mountain lion living in the wilds of Utah. Why would you want to cross half a country to go to North Carolina? 

Why would you cross dozens of highways and interstates, bypass numerous cities, and head to a completely unknown environment? One adventurous lion making the move is possible but an entire population venturing on such a journey is impossible. 

The last sighting of a mountain lion in North Carolina was in 1886. Where did they come from, you ask? Some guy who had been keeping two cougars as pets decided it would be cool to release them out into the streets. 

These two were neutered and had never learned to hunt, so they naturally headed to the nearest dumpster to scavenge for food. They were both shot before they could become a danger to the neighborhood.

There hasn’t been a confirmed wild mountain lion sighting in North Carolina in over a hundred years. You might see a bobcat or a big house cat and get over-excited, thinking it’s a mountain lion. 

It’s difficult to make out the size of an animal at night or on video footage. These are common mistakes and more often than not, your mountain lion was just your neighbor’s cat trying to get home. Just keep an eye out for the tail, because the mountain lion’s tail is much longer than the bobcat’s and much fluffier than the domestic cat’s.

Can You Kill a Mountain Lion in North Carolina? 

Mountain Lions In North Carolina

How can you kill something that isn’t there? Since mountain lions don’t exist in North Carolina, there’s no question of hunting them. We should note that it isn’t on the list of states where killing mountain lions is permitted. If you see a mountain lion in North Carolina, your first instinct shouldn’t be to shoot but to inform the wildlife authorities. You’re literally witnessing a miracle.

Are There Any Big Cats in North Carolina?

The mountain lion and the jaguar (the only two of the seven big cats who actually live in North America) live exclusively out west. So no, there aren’t any big cats living in North Carolina. 

Does that mean that there aren’t any wild animals at all? No, of course not. In fact, some of the animals that people confuse with mountain lions are foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and even feral cats, all of which could be dangerous in their own ways. 

Also, Read About Mountain Lions in New Jersey


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

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