Is this a Cougar track?

by Nikki

Mountain lion paw print?

Mountain lion paw print?

Found these tracks on our property. I had some hunters tell me that they saw a cougar while hunting this last fall. (Needless to say, they found somewhere else to hunt).

However, I didn't take it too seriously. Just thought it may have been their imagination.

However, last week we found these tracks. I read that the cat species do not usually have claws showing.

However, these prints were about the size of my hand.

I can't imagine a dog having prints that big! What do you think?


Hi Nikki... thanks for visiting and asking. I am no great expert but there are three main things that are against this paw print being made by a cougar:

1. Missouri is about 300 miles outside the cougar's distribution. That does not necessarily exclude the cougar from Missouri because they wander. There are a few stories of wandering cougars looking for mates etc. But it is a factor in deciding.

2. The paw print pictured has clear claw marks and as you say the cougar does not usually show claw marks due to retractable claws like nearly all the cats (except the cheetah). When the cougar runs the claws might be out for grip but this paw print appears to be "settled" and that of a walking animal.

3. The heel pad is relatively too small compared to the toe pads. The mountain lion heel pad is larger. Also the heel pad in the picture appears to have one indentation at the rear. The cougars heel pad has two indentations.

Here is a map of the cougar range:

Puma range map

Puma range map 2015

Conclusion My conclusion, which is open to criticism, is that this is the paw print of a large dog. Apparently they can be as big as the paw print of a cougar.


See mountain lion tracks.


Is this a Cougar track? — 10 Comments

  1. The map of the cougar range is incorrect. Cougar or Mountain lions or panthers are all ove the USA . West Virginia and other states have been stocking the states with Mountain Lions, Lynxs and Cyotes and Wolfs. We have quite a varity of thes animals that we didn’t have when I was a youngster growing up. If you go into the mountains you need to carry a pistol or Rifle for protection. I have and a Lynx and a Bobcat n my yard and have found Cougar tracks in my yard. Havent seen the Cougar yet, but several of my neighbors have seen the Coughar.

    • Hi Clint, the range is correct in that it is where the cougar lives except for some strays or vagrants that wander. Either that or the “experts” are wrong. The map is well established. The cougar was pushed out and killed off in the east of the USA about 100 years ago. There are some vagrants in the east that wander across from the west but in general the experts say that the east is not officially cougar range except for Florida.

  2. Michael – I think it really depends on your definitions. If you’re talking “well established breeding populations”,that’s probably right. But If you’re asking the question “is there a very real possibility I might have seen a cougar/cougar tracks?”, then the range has vastly increased in the last 30 years and is continuing to do so.

    Wikipedia’s entry now reads “In particular, the cougar was extirpated in eastern North America in the beginning of the 20th century, except for an isolated sub-population in Florida. However, in recent decades, breeding populations have moved east into the far western parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Transient males have been verified in Minnesota,[6] Wisconsin,[7] Iowa,[8][9] the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Illinois, where a cougar was shot in the city limits of Chicago[10][11][12] and, in at least one instance, observed as far east as Connecticut.[13][14] Although the last confirmed kill of a mountain lion in Massachusetts was in 1858, DNA testing on scat recovered from the Quabbin Reservoir in Central Massachusetts in 1997 was also confirmed to have come from a North American mountain lion.[15]”

    This map shows confirmed puma sightings since 1990, showing that anywhere West of the Mississippi there is a definite chance. Living in SW Iowa, I can tell you anecdotally that I know 3 or 4 people who have seen cougars in the last 5 years or so.

    Ian B

    • Ian, thanks for your on the ground reality check. I really like that. The best source for wild cat species ranges is the IUCN Red List. They have to know as accurately as possible where the cats are because they are concerned with conservation and threats to extinction.

      However, you are saying that their information is inaccurate and out of date. And I can well believe that. I would rather believe you than the Red List.

      So how do we go about updating my map which is based on the Red List? My map can be adjusted quite easily. You can do it or I can do it on your instructions. What would you like to do? We could add single marker sightings or add a different color of area to indcicate regular sightings but at a lower level.

      The original map is here on Google:,-85.078125&spn=102.253372,194.0625

  3. The map no longer works but they are always wrong. The conservation departments are swearing up and down that lions do not live in the ozarks for both Missouri and Arkansas but everyone out in the boonies knows the truth. There are sightings everywhere and they are coming up on game cams. Game cams are way way more accessible than they were just a few years ago. Most sporting goods stores carry many brands of these and many people are buying them. Just this past month there have been sightings not far from my home in the Arkansas Ozarks. We have definite cat prints on my homestead. And just like the article states…huge rear pad prints, no claw marks. These are not just strays. These are breeding populations. There are just too many of them out here for them to not be breeding. Last fall we found at least one set of baby cat prints along side the larger ones right behind our house.

    I am familiar with the goings on in the MDC and I can tell you their denial is intentional based on political and social concerns. Many at these agencies want to bring back these species and do so without the knowledge of the public and media. And they don’t want to admit they are here and breeding so people won’t deliberately try and hunt them as many of these agency officials would secretly like to ban hunting all together.

    It was just a few years ago the MDC came out and said there are no lion populations in the state of Missouri. They were responding to all of the “supposed” sightings by silly uneducated rural folks. Then a few days later, they were embarrassed when a motorist killed one in Kingdom City just north of their Jeff City agency offices.

    They are hear and breeding. No doubt about it. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

    • Thanks, Zachary, for a very informative comment. I might turn it into an article. There is quite a lot of interest in the presence of the puma in locations in the US where it is not meant to be.

      I apologise that the map failed to work. Someone deleted it on Google. Anyway I have replaced it but as you say they are wrong. Experts draw maps but the people on the ground often know better.

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