The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has confirmed photographic evidence of a cougar sighting in northeast Louisiana on Nov. 23. An LDWF biologist conducted a site investigation that confirmed the authenticity of a trail camera picture submitted to the department.
“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.”
Although it is illegal to own a cougar in Louisiana, 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.
The first was in 2002 by an employee of Lake Fausse Point State Park. It was later confirmed with DNA analysis from scat found at the site.
Three confirmed trail camera photos were taken of a cougar in Allen, Vernon and Winn parishes in 2008.
A cougar was shot and killed in a neighborhood by the Bossier City Police Department on Nov. 30, 2008. 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 until the recent sighting.
The mountain lion, cougar, panther or puma are all names that refer to the same animal. Its color ranges from light tan to brownish grey. The only species of big cats that occur as black are the jaguar and leopard. Jaguars are native to South America and leopards to Africa. Both species can occur as spotted or black, although in both cases the spotted variety is much more common.
Although the department has received many calls about black panthers, there has never been a documented case of a black cougar anywhere in North America.
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. Other animals commonly mistaken for cougars are bobcats and house cats, 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.
Penalties for killing a cougar in Louisiana may include up to one year in jail and/or a $100,000 fine. Anyone with any information regarding the killing of a cougar should call LA Operation Game Thief at 1-800-442-2511. Callers can remain anonymous and may receive a cash reward.
To report sightings of cougars with physical evidence such as photos, tracks and/or scat, please contact Maria Davidson at 337-262-2080 or email@example.com.