Cougar spotted in Louisiana for first time since 2011

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This cougar was spotted in northeast Louisiana on Nov. 23, 2016. (Courtesy: LDWF)

LOUISIANA (WGNO) — The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has confirmed a photo of a cougar sighting in northeast Louisiana on Nov. 23.

An LDWF biologist conducted a site investigation that confirmed the picture sent to the LDWF.

“It is quite possible that this animal could be photographed on other trail cameras placed at deer feeders,’’ said Maria Davidson, LDWF’s Large Carnivore Program Manager.  “It is unlikely this cougar will remain in any one area longer than it would take to consume a kill. It is impossible to determine if the animal in the photograph is a wild, free-ranging cougar or an escaped captive.”

It is illegal to own a cougar in Louisiana, but there could be some held as pets.

Cougars also are protected under state and federal law and it is illegal to kill them.

The Department has documented several cougar sightings since 2002, including one spotted in three different Central Louisiana parishes in 2008.

Also in 2008, a cougar was shot and killed in a neighborhood by the Bossier City Police Department. The DNA from that cougar confirmed it originated from a New Mexico population.

Another confirmed trail cam picture was submitted in August of 2011 from Vernon Parish.

There have been no additional reports since then.

Mountain lion, cougar, panther or puma are all names that refer to the same animal. Its color ranges from light tan to brownish grey.

LDWF receives calls reporting sightings of cougars throughout Louisiana.  Many of the calls are found to be cases of mistaken identity, with dog tracks making up the majority of the evidence submitted by those reporting cougar sightings.

Bobcats and large house cats have also been mistaken for cougars. In those cases, the animals are usually seen from a distance or in varying shades of light.

Because of the lack of physical evidence, LDWF has concluded Louisiana does not have an established, breeding population of cougars. In states that have verified small populations of cougars, physical evidence can readily be found in the form of tracks, cached deer kills, scat and road kill.

The recent sightings of cougars in Louisiana are likely animals dispersing from existing populations. An expanding population in Texas can produce dispersing individual cougars that move into suitable habitat in Louisiana. Young males are known to disperse from their birthplace and travel hundreds of miles, seeking their own territories.