Different Sources Are at Odds About the Presence of Mountain Lions in Kentucky
I think it's interesting how excited people get at the possibility of wildlife existing in Kentucky that could be dangerous.
Wildlife in Kentucky That Isn't Supposed to Be Here
It's hard to explain, but reactions to the chance that, say, bears and/or mountain lions are roaming around the Commonwealth--or maybe even LIVING here in the wild--are sometimes met with "cool" and "awesome." Interestingly, you probably wouldn't get the same reaction if we were talking about pythons and alligators. I guess maybe we DO discriminate in our attitudes about predators.
I do know this, based on experience. If mountain lions DID become more common, I'd want a great Pyrenees on my property. Perhaps their are other dog breeds that would work out, but my aunt and uncle in rural New Mexico never had trouble with mountain lions because of their two great Pyrenees, Gus and Dolly.
Are There Mountain Lions in Kentucky?
But ARE mountain lions something we need to worry about here? The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources says no, and in no uncertain terms:
In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the eastern cougar extinct. Based on its extensive research, the Service concluded this subspecies of big cats had disappeared from the east by the 1930s. While mountain lions were once common in Kentucky, research shows the state has not supported a wild population of mountain lions for more than a century. In the landmark 1974 book “Mammals of Kentucky,” authors Roger W. Barbour and Wayne H. Davis noted there were no valid records of mountain lions in the state after 1899.
That should calm anyone's fear about a POPULATION of lions, but it doesn't mean that they can't get here. And they have.
The Mountain Lion That Was Euthanized in Bourbon County KY
But the KDFWR affirms that since mountain lions are not natives, that if they ARE found in Kentucky, they must have been transported here, were in captivity, and somehow escaped.
The Possible Sighting of a Mountain Lion in Harlan County KY
Nine years ago, this image of what was believed to be a cougar (mountain lion) was captured in Harlan County KY.
Surveillance Video of a Possible Mountain Lion in Madison County KY
And then there was this report in 2019 of a family claiming they had video from their surveillance camera of a mountain lion on their property in Madison County:
There's Some Disagreement About the Presence of Mountain Lions in Kentucky
But here's this monkey wrench. There's a website called fkgoldstandard.com that might seem to confirm the existence of mountain lions in the Commonwealth. It doesn't claim they are indigenous--only that they are here. Maybe that stems from claims of sightings that may or may not have been confirmed. I don't know. Based on our climate, I don't see why cougars COULDN'T call Kentucky home; they just don't, according to Fish & Wildlife.
And what of the belief that a mountain lion COULD wander a great distance and wind up in Kentucky. That idea sparked a debate between the KDFWR and South Dakota Game, Fish, & Parks who argued that the Bourbon County lion could absolutely have walked from as far way as South Dakota and wound up in Kentucky.
I suppose debates will rage on about the existence of lions in Kentucky. But the official word is they are not from here. So if you see one, look for its Uber driver.
Or maybe it hitchhiked.