Are There Mountain Lions In West Virginia? Everything You Need To Know

Mountain Lions In West Virginia

Puma isn’t just a sports brand. The panther isn’t just a cat in a Marvel superhero name. Pumas, panthers, cougars, or mountain lions- whatever you call them – are the same cat species. 

Along with bobcats and lynxes, they have prowled their way through American history for centuries. Today, their slender bodies are rarely seen, and their purrs are seldom heard.

Are There Mountain Lions In West Virginia?

Does America’s “Mountain State” have mountain lions? Well, that would be the assumption. Once upon a time, this was true. Mountain lions had an established home in West Virginia, just like they did in every other state. Sadly, things are much different now.

Despite its name, West Virginia used to have eastern cougars- a mountain lion subspecies. Back in the day, they lived throughout West Virginia- especially in the Allegheny Mountains. 

These eastern cougars were ferocious hunters, so people living near them started to fear them. They were scared that the cougars would ditch their normal diet (which was mainly deer) and come after their livestock instead. So, the townsfolk came up with a solution- bounties. 

Many counties offered handsome rewards for panthers, but Randolph County holds the record. Between 1852 and 1859, 72 eastern cougars were killed in that county alone. The price on their heads, plus the loss of their natural habitats, extinguished the wild cats from their homes. 

West Virginia no longer has any mountain lions. However, people still claim to see them from time to time.

Mountain Lion Sighting In West Virginia

Mountain Lions In West Virginia

Sources say that the last West Virginia cougar died in 1887. It was shot in Pocahontas County. Pocahontas County has had many sightings since then, but none of them have been the real deal.

Most of the sightings in eastern parts of the country can’t be celebrated as wins. This is because they are usually Western mountain lions that have simply traveled eastward. 

Mountain lions love solitude and are always on the lookout for new territories. This could be what attracts them to the eastern states. Other times, they are brought into new places by external forces. 

This was the case in 1976 when two cougars were captured in the infamous Pocahontas County. They weren’t originally from West Virginia but had been transported there and released into the wild.

For the longest time, people still had hope. The eastern cougar was considered an endangered species, not an extinct one. To put the matter to end once and for all, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stepped in. They conducted their own research and declared the species extinct in 2018. 

You would think that this put an end to sighting reports, but it didn’t. Some people still claim to see mountain lions, but odds are they actually spotted some other wild animal.

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

Can You Kill A Mountain Lion In West Virginia?

In West Virginia, the “mountaineers are always free.” But what about the mountain lions? They once freely roamed West Virginia’s mountains and forests. Now, they are extinct and haven’t left so much as a pawprint.

West Virginia does not have any mountain lions left to kill. Maybe 200 years ago, it would make sense to shoot them. You’d be protecting your livestock, and maybe you would have received a bounty. Now, states are all about bringing the species back. Many western mountain lions are stepping back into the eastern states. Wild cat lovers couldn’t be happier! 

That being said, there are no strict laws against killing a mountain lion in West Virginia. There are some unwritten rules, however. It’s very unlikely you’d even run into one in the first place. Besides, their rare status would make most people think twice before shooting at them.

What To Do If You See A Mountain Lion In West Virginia?

Mountain Lions In West Virginia

If you’re out hiking and you see paw prints with claw marks, it could be a mountain lion. If you manage to see a wild cat, you’ve got to check for these features. Mountain lions are 5-6 feet long. Heightwise, they would come up to an average person’s waist. Their tan fur can easily camouflage in the sand but may stand out amongst greenery. They have long tails that look like they’ve been dipped in black ink at the end. 

If you see a mountain lion, remember not to panic. Mountain lions dislike humans, so they’re very likely to just leave you alone. If you have your pet with you, you need to be extra careful. Make sure they’re on a leash, otherwise, they’ll be in danger.

If the mountain lion starts to approach you, slowly back away. Don’t run away from them, because they may chase you. Instead, stand your ground and try to scare it off. Stand up tall and flail your arms around. This will make you look bigger, which will in turn shoo it away.

Always remember to report mountain lion sightings to your local authorities.

What Big Cats Are In West Virginia?

West Virginia may not have mountain lions, but they do have bobcats. Bobcats and mountain lions have a lot of things in common. They’re both native to the Americas. Neither of them are technically “big cats,” because they don’t roar. They’re both apex predators who hunt at night. They both prefer similar kinds of habitats.

However, one major difference between bobcats and mountain lions is their numbers. There are around 2-3 million bobcats in the whole of the United States. They’re found in every part of the country, and every part of West Virginia too. There’s no bobcat shortage in the state. That’s why it’s legal to hunt bobcats in West Virginia if you’re lucky enough to spot one. Like their mountain lion cousins, bobcats are expert hiders.

Also, Read About Mountain Lions In Virginia


And that was everything about the Mountain Lion in West Virginia. I hope this article answers your questions.

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