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

Mountain Lions In Wisconsin

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to the mountains we go! And where there are mountains, there may be the infamous mountain lions!

Mountain lions are wild cats that are native to the Americas. They are not “big cats” like lions and tigers, but they are the biggest of the small cats. They’re 5-6 feet in length and have strong paws and tails. Their fur is tan or tawny, with patches of white on their underbellies and chins. 

Mountain lions don’t just live in mountains as their name suggests. These skilled hunters can adapt to most types of environments, as long as they’re left alone. Like their adaptability, they also have many names, including puma, panther, catamount, and cougar.

Are There Mountain Lions In Wisconsin?

According to Wisconsin wildlife experts, there are no native Mountain lions in the state of Wisconsin. 

The Land of the Free was once the land of the mountain lions as well. Before the 20th century, the United States had a thriving population of cougars in nearly every state. Along with bobcats and lynxes, they formed the feline majority. However, within just a few decades, they were hunted to extinction in many states. People would kill them for bounties, or to protect their land and livestock. 

There are around 20,000 to 40,000 cougars currently roaming the country. Out of these, only a handful have been spotted in Wisconsin. Wisconsin does not have a native mountain lion population. 

However, the sightings have been on the rise. From 2017 to 2021, there were 76 sightings. This may seem like a small number in the grand scheme of things, but it’s quite big compared to zero!

Mountain lion sightings in Wisconsin?

In 2023 alone, there were 16 verified sightings of mountain lions. Most of these were identified by trail cameras, while one person discovered pawprints. Three of these happened in February, while the rest occurred in the summer. They were spread across multiple counties, which were Marinette County, Oneida County, Washburn County, Sawyer County, Oconto County, and Florence County. 

In 2022, a large cat was captured running through a forest in Vilas County. A local biologist confirmed that it was a mountain lion. This same cat was thought to be spotted multiple times later that year, each time in a different area. This is actually the case with many of the sightings across the state. It is usually the same mountain lion that has moved territories, so it’s captured by cameras that are miles apart.

Most of the sightings were confirmed by photographs rather than physical bodies. Without DNA samples, it is difficult to conclude where the animal is from. Local biologists theorize that most of them are males who have traveled all the way from Black Hills, South Dakota. 

Cougars are very often confused with other animals that are similar in size and color. These include house cats, bobcats, dogs, coyotes, and wolves. Cougars also have similar pawprints to other big animals like bears. It’s difficult to identify a cougar at first glance, mostly because they roam at night. The poor lighting paired with the speed at which they move can easily cause mistakes in ID’ing them.

Mountain Lion Attacks In Wisconsin?

Mountain Lions In Wisconsin

Mountain lion sightings are pretty rare in Wisconsin. This means that mountain lion attacks are even rarer. Even in the whole of the U.S., in the past 100 years, there have only been a few attacks. Unfortunately, some of these were fatal, resulting in the death of 13 people. 

Wisconsin has not seen any mountain lion attacks in the recent past. In 2020, local police at Hales Corners received a phone call from a man who claimed one attacked him. He reported that he had fired his firearm in order to protect himself from the attack. However, police investigations did not find any evidence for his claim.

Can You Kill A Mountain Lion In Wisconsin?

Mountain lions are a species that need our protection. Because of human activity and fear, their population went from extremely high numbers to a few thousand. Many wildlife conservationists are fighting for these animals’ right to live.

In Wisconsin, mountain lions are considered a protected species. This is due to the fact that their native population in the state is zero. The ones that do visit the state travel hundreds of miles to get there. So, it’s only fair that we give them a chance of survival.

That being said, people have the right to protect themselves as well. If a mountain lion ever threatens someone’s safety, or the safety of their home, pets, or children, they can kill it. However, if these conditions aren’t met, killing a mountain lion in Wisconsin is illegal.

Can You Own A Mountain Lion In Wisconsin?

Mountain Lions In Wisconsin

Mountain lions are unique animals with quirky personalities. They prefer to live alone and tend to keep to themselves. They are incredible hunters and can kill prey that’s up to three times their size. It’s no wonder that some people would want to own one of these fascinating felines.

Wisconsin is one of the only five states that does not ban owning a mountain lion. In fact, they don’t have any set laws against keeping any kind of wild, exotic animal. However, to own one, you would require a permit or official approval. 

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

What To Do If You See A Mountain Lion In Wisconsin?

Mountain lions are difficult animals to spot. For starters, they prefer to be active at night. That’s when they hunt as well. Another reason is that they don’t like running into humans. They are solitary in nature and tend to live in isolated regions.

Despite that, people have encountered mountain lions in different parts of the country. In Wisconsin, you may happen to see one if you live in an isolated area.

If you come into contact with one, there are certain guidelines to follow to keep safe. First, you mustn’t panic and turn your back to it to run away. Instead, stay calm and composed. 

Maintain eye contact and try to assert dominance. You can do this by standing up tall and raising and waving your arms around. If you can find something to throw at it, like a rock or stick, you can do that as well. This should be enough to scare it off. Usually, at this stage, they just turn around and go about the rest of their day.

If they do attack, you can still fight them and come out alive. Use whatever you can around you to fight them off- people in the past have used tools, camping equipment, rocks, big tree branches, and even their bare hands.

What Big Cats Are In Wisconsin?

Big cats aren’t just found in zoos or Nat Geo Wild, but in Wisconsin as well! Apart from cougars, Wisconsin is home to two other cats- the Canadian lynx and the red lynx. 

The red lynx is more popularly known by its other name- the bobcat. Bobcats are the most common wild cats in the United States. Their name comes from their stubby “bobbed” tails. They are medium-sized cats that don’t grow more than 2 feet tall.

In Wisconsin, there are over 40,000 bobcats. They mainly live in the dense forests of Northern Wisconsin. Here, they find plenty of wild hares to hunt. Should you encounter one, you can follow the same guidelines that were earlier mentioned. 

Canadian lynx are harder to spot than bobcats and mountain lions. These guys are the definition of secretive. They’re small cats too, around the same size as their bobcat brothers. They are usually found in colder regions of the country. In Wisconsin, they live in the thick forests as well.

Also, Read About Mountain Lions In Wyoming


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

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