Eastern Cougar Sightings
How Common Are Mountain Lions in New York?
Eastern cougars (mountain lions) do not have a native, self sustaining population in New York State. They have been absent from this state since the late 1800s; however, there have been a few isolated sightings. Each sighting involved cougars that are not native to New York. A couple sightings involved captive mountain lions that escaped from licensed facilities in New York State. Another sighting involved a wild cougar that traveled through New York as it trekked nearly 1,800 miles east from its native population in South Dakota.
More details on their natural history and distribution are available on the Eastern Cougar Fact Sheet page.
How to Report a Sighting
DEC staff will only investigate reports where physical evidence of tracks, scat, or hair exist; or when a captive animal has been reported to have escaped.
While DEC receives several reports of cougar sightings each year, it is mostly cases of mistaken identity of other animals. Cougars are commonly mistaken for wild bobcats, fishers and coyotes, as well as domestic housecats and dogs.
If you believe you have seen a cougar, check for tracks, scat or other signs that may have been left by the animal and take photographs of these signs. If possible, photograph the animal. When taking photographs of tracks, please include an object of known size, such as a quarter or ruler, next to the track. Placing a can or bucket over the tracks may help preserve them until they can be examined by DEC wildlife staff. For helpful information on identifying mountain lion tracks and more, visit the Missouri Dept. of Conservation Mountain Lion Signs (External Link) page.
Submit your photographs and findings to DEC via the contact information at the right of this page.
There are many images of mountain lions circulating on the internet with false claim they were taken in New York. Many of these photographs were copied from previous news reports or articles from western states where native populations of cougars exist. You can take look at these false images below, which are provided for public awareness only.
All photos below have been circulating amongst the internet with FALSE claim they are from New York. Captions next to the images indicate where the original photo was taken. Please do not re-circulate these images.
Photo of a man posing with a
cougar in a garage (This animal was
harvested in Washington State in
Photo of a cougar peering through a glass door and multiple
photos of a cougar taken through a glass door
(These were taken in Lander, Wyoming).
Photo of a cougar following a deer. The origin of this photo is
not known (in at least one instance it was credited to US Forest
Service). Note: The deer in this picture is a western species,
not a white-tailed deer native to New York
Photo of a man with a dead cougar in a workshop
(This cat was hit by a pickup truck between Williams and Valle,
Arizona in late 2007)
Photo of a cougar from a camp site in
northwestern region of Wyoming.
Photo of a cougar on the porch of a house in Wyoming.
(Photo courtesy of Wyoming Game and Fish Department)
Photo of a cougar straddling a deer in Santa Monica, California
(Photo courtesy of Department of Interior, 2013)
Photo of a Saharan cheetah (not a cougar) taken by a night-time
camera in the desert of Termit, Niger (Photo from a 2010 article
of the UK online news dailymail.com)
Photo of a cougar taken on a trail camera in western Minnesota
(Photo from a 2011 article of the Austin Daily Herald)
False Rumor: DEC Releasing Cougars to Control Deer
Rumors have been circulating for the past few years that the DEC has released cougars to control deer populations. Some of these rumors claim that Officer 'Jones' participated in the release, or that people have actually seen cougars with ear tags or neck collars, so they must have been released by the state. This is not true. The DEC has never released cougars, despite what you may hear to the contrary.