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.
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 (wvlt.tv) 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.