Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Big Cats in Kentucky

Historians and big cat experts can tell you that historically, large cats (cougars) ranged all over the US prior to the settlement by Europeans (click here to see the ranges pre and post European settlement). After that, they were hunted into extinction in nearly all states East of the Mississippi (the exception being that of Florida) and most states in the Midwest; leaving their home range basically from the West coast to the Rocky Mountains and all of South America.

Over the past several years though, it appears as if the range is spreading. Numerous reports are out there of sightings in the Midwest and quite a few even further east. (Click here to see a map of home range and recognized sightings) Some experts and groups will agree that due to an overabundance of these animals, it is highly possible that these cats could be on the move. It is noted that these animals are in fact leaving the more remote locations that they have been in, and encroaching further into human populated areas of the country.

There is really no reason why these cats couldn’t thrive outside of the current known range, especially in the Eastern states. With large rural, forested tracts of land, highly populated with deer and other small animals, there is plenty of opportunity for these animals to mark some territory. In fact, responding to an alleged sighting in northern Kentucky back in 2007, John Dinon, the head of the Cincinnati Zoo’s Conservation Program stated that he wasn’t as surprised as he would have been several years ago. He continued on to say that there is so much wildlife in the area (we are talking only of northern KY here, not the much more rural areas of the state) he is not surprised to see them migrate in just for the food.

After doing some research, I have yet to find anything regarding the states official status of the cougar here in Kentucky, other than a site that stated Kentucky regards them as being extinct in the state. That prompted me to send an email to the State Fish and Wildlife department asking them what would happen should a hunter or trapper, either purposely or accidentally caught or killed an animal that is recognized as extinct in the state and/or not recognized at all in the state. I have yet to hear back from them, but, will update if and/or when they respond.

1 comment:

  1. I leave for work at 6am ---during certain times of the year it is light---one morning a animal the size of very large ST. Bernard but longer bodied jumped in front of me it took maybe 20 strides before jumping back off the road--from the back I could tell it moved differently than a dog it was the color of a cougar with white lower legs when it turned I could see the curved "cat tail" and the cat head. Tried to report to UK but they never responded. I live in Boyd County. within a mile of US 23.