Cougars in New York- Truth or Fiction?

Another winter has passed and no cougar tracks in the snow, yet some people claim to have seen them and believe that they are living among us.  There are many legends of local Western New York cougars.  I first heard about them when a neighbor had a rifle by his door.  Curious, I asked  “why the rifle?”  He responded “Well, didn’t you hear?  A farmer down the road shot a cougar.  It killed one of his cows, so he staked it out the next night and two came back.  He shot one and the other one got away. It had a DEC tag in its ear.  The DEC was going to fine him, but then they realized that it had been killing the farmers cows, so they just told him not to say anything.  The DEC guy told him that they released several breeding pairs in the area”.

“Now why would they do that?  I asked, curious.

“To control the deer population”  He responded.

Since then I have many variations on that theme, varying from  “50 pairs of cougars released”  and “to control the coyote population” being the reason they were released.

Sightings of the cougars always come in the summer- never the winter.  No hunters ever report seeing the cougars while out hunting deer, and certainly none have shot one.  No tracks in the snow either.  Wouldn’t there be tracks? Do cougars migrate south with the birds or  Is there another reason they don’t leave tracks in the snow?

Why aren’t typical “cougar kills” ever found?  They must be eating something .

Where do all of these cougar sightings originate?  What are people really seeing?  Any ideas?  I think they are seeing deer, domestic cats, and coyotes.  One lady thought she had one in her barn laying in her hay. She is a pretty astute animal person and she insisted she had seen it up close and it hissed at her and then ran in big bounds.  Intrigued, I checked it out and found it to be a coyote with Sarcoptic mange.

Could cougars control coyotes?  Nope.

Would they control deer?


Could it be just another folklore story that is fun to tell?


Most likely.

I don’t believe a State  can just re-introduce a species like this, there are way too many hoops to jump through.  Look at all they are going through just trying to reintroduce wolves into other areas of the country. There are lots of public meetings, etc.  Cougars aren’t free either  and one would think a “cougar stocking ” program would be quite expensive.  What would New York want to do something like this for?  There is an Internet hoax that shows a fellow with a huge dead cougar in his garage.  The text in the e-mail says it was a “friend of a friend” who shot the cougar locally- it describes the cougar stalking a neighbors cows, etc..  This is a real photo, but the story is fabricated.  The cougar was actually taken out west.  Another photo that has been circulated shows a cougar on someones deck.  The the photo is real, but it was taken out west, not in Steuben county as described in the e-mail.  That particular photo has actually circulated for years and was seen in several other states before it circulated in New York.    They even go on to say that the sighting was confirmed by a “DEC guy”   Yet, no legitimate names ever surface.

Lets see how many cougar stories crop up this summer.  It will most likely be the same story that involves a cow farmer and a cougar that was shot with a tag in its ear,  just a  different county.

Cougar Cougar