Are there mountain lions in Tennessee?

Mountain lion in Tennessee

Tennesseeans want to know if there are mountain lions (pumas, cougars) in Tennessee. For non-America residents, this state is in the east of the US. The experts have long said that mountain lions don’t exist in the eastern half to two-thirds of America due to over-hunting and habitat loss. That’s the standard answer. It’s been that way for a very long time.

No mountain lions in the east of US
Officially, no mountain lions in the east of US. This is a screenshot of IUCN Red List map. It should be definitive.

However, if you search for answers to the question (and this applies to other states in the east too) you’ll find that residents are seeing cougars in the east. This is certainly the case in Tennessee.

One online newspaper ( said that there has been at least nine confirmed sightings (as at Feb 16, 2017) from Central or West Tennessee. I am not sure if these are sightings which are confirmed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). There has to be caution because people have a habit of seeing ‘big cats’ at a distance when they are in fact seeing someone’s moggie. In my view this is a human trait due to fear of large predators going back a million years!

However, there are too many sightings, and some are good, to simply ignore them. There is a camera trap video of a cougar in Tennessee sniffing the air (Flehmen response) at night while hunting (see header picture). It looks genuine but we can’t sure. The video was sent to the YouTuber by a friend in TN and is said to have been filmed in Humphreys County.

They also say that there are mountain lions in neighbouring Georgia. But the numbers in the east are very low. Are the numbers sufficient to allow the population to be sustainable? You need a certain minimum number (around 100) to sustain a population and even then you get inbreeding and infertile males (the Florida panther is the classic example).

These Tennessee mountain lions may be migrating from the north or perhaps the west of the US where they are known to exist. Young male mountain lions do travel long distances to find their home range. The suggestion is that the mountain lion is returning to the east.

Or perhaps some of the sightings are of released pet pumas. A lot of people like to keep this large cat as a pet because their characters are quite nice. They can be domesticated to a certain extent like cheetahs. Both these large wild cats have relatively gentle characters.

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4 thoughts on “Are there mountain lions in Tennessee?”

  1. Definitely have them in Eastern Iowa along the Mississippi, I’ve seen tracks on our farm along the creek 3 miles out from the river. Plenty of trail cam pictures have been published locally too for the past ten years.

    • Thanks Kevin for adding to the evidence. I think the ‘experts’ should change their official views and maps because there’s too much evidence that the mountain lion lives in the east. All the maps say that they were extirpated many years ago in that half of the US.

  2. Mountain lions are generally elusive. Any large heavily wooded land like state/national parks would be a suitable habitat. Humans think they know everything but consider how hard it is to catch any animal on a game camera and put the odds to work. If there is one logic says there are more.


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