Mountain lions once enjoyed an extensive distribution throughout the North American continent from coast to coast. In the western states, mountain lions have lost much of their historic habitat and are now confined to rocky hills and mountainous areas. East of the Rocky Mountains, mountain lions have been eliminated as breeding populations except for one small community in the southern tip of Florida. The subspecies surviving in Florida, Puma concolor coryi, is listed on the federal endangered species list.
Cougar sightings in Alabama are rare. It is suspected that most of the large cat sightings in Alabama today are actually bobcats or possibly cougars that were raised as pets and released or escaped into the wild. Adult mountain lions measure five to six feet from tip to tail, and bobcats are about half that size and have a short stubby tail. Over the years, residents have reported seeing large black cats described as black panthers, but there has been no physical evidence confirmed by a wildlife professional in since the 1960’s.
Efforts are currently underway to determine the presence of resident mountain lions in the east. Reports, photographs, and recorded evidence of any sort should be sent to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Large cats of any kind – cougars or bobcats, can become a nuisance if they harass or kill livestock or pets. With proper permission and concurrence with state hunting regulations, the problem would no doubt be solved enthusiastically by any number of hunters or trappers in the state. Relocation of nuisance predators is ill advised, as the animal will most likely become a nuisance again wherever he is released. Predators can be shot without a permit at any time if people, livestock, or pets are in IMMEDIATE danger, but the incident must be reported to the state fish and wildlife officials immediately.