Are There Cougars in North Carolina?

When I was little, Mamaw and Papaw warned me of the dangers of wandering off into the forests around the house. They regaled me with stories of black bear, wolves, and cougars. Animals I fervently believed hid behind every boulder and tree trunk.

Those stories kept me out of the woods – safely playing in the creek or climbing trees in the yard. Even into my adult years, I kept my eyes peeled for the elusive mountain lion I’d heard so much about.

You can’t begin to imagine my shock when I discovered the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared the eastern cougar extinct in 2018. Not only did they say the mountain lion was extirpated – but they claimed it’s been that way for 100 years. Did Mamaw and Papaw mislead me?

Probably not. Mamaw and Papaw’s parents were born in the 1800s. If my grandparents never saw one, chances are one of their parents or grandparents did. Plus, there’s been talk of sightings over the years – some as recently as 2019.

Wildlife officials dismiss recent cougar sightings, claiming they are misidentified local animals such as bobcats. I don’t know about y’all, but I think it would be difficult to confuse a bobcat for a mountain lion – especially for anyone familiar with local fauna.

So tell me, what do y’all think? Are there cougars in North Carolina?

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