Mountain Lion In Pennsylvania: Everything You Need To Know

Last Updated on December 21, 2023 by Amin Tawar

Mountain Lion In Pennsylvania
Mountain Lion In Pennsylvania: Everything You Need To Know

Pennsylvania is home to a variety of wild animals, we can count on witnessing wolves, bears, foxes, bobcats, and elk. But we do not expect to see mountain lions because the Pennsylvania Game Commission, they are not inhabited in the state. 

So, what exactly has happened to them over time?

In this article, I’ve explained all the things you need to know about the mountain lion in Pennsylvania.

Are There Any Mountain Lions In Pennsylvania?

Mountain lions are large cats that are also known as cougars. They were historically a very common predator in Pennsylvania until a variety of prey loss (especially elk and deer), range-wide habitat loss, and predator eradication projects in the 1800s forced them to extinction across the state subsequently at the end of the century. 

They were also seen as a threat to livestock, humans, and gaming species, resulting in complete harvests in some states. The last wild mountain lion was killed in the year 1871 in Pennsylvania. Though there have been a few reports of wild mountain lion sightings in Pennsylvania, none of them have been confirmed to be wild mountain lions. 

These reports generally involve individuals that might have migrated to the state from nearby neighboring states, like South Dakota or Colorado, where the populations of mountain lions are still viable inhabitants. 

The closest breed residents of mountain lions are in Nebraska’s Niobrara River Valley, which is about 1,000 miles away from Pennsylvania’s eastern border. However, currently, there are no confirmed breeding inhabitants of mountain lions in Pennsylvania. 

Here’s a breakdown of the evidence for and against the presence of mountain lions in Pennsylvania:

In Favor of Their Presence:

  1. Sporadic sightings: Recent years have had their share of confirmed mountain lion sightings, including a 2023 cameo in Lower Macungie Township.
  2. DNA Clues: Back in 2021, DNA testing spilled the beans – a mountain lion taken out in a road tussle hailed from the wild lands of South Dakota.
  3. Suitable habitat: Pennsylvania still rocks plenty of prime real estate for mountain lions, with lush forests, towering mountains, and winding river valleys.
  4. Expansion of range: Mountain lions are on the move, expanding their turf eastward. Some experts even toss around the idea that they might just set up shop and recolonize Pennsylvania.

Arguments Against Their Presence:

  1. Lack of breeding population: Love might be in the air, but not for mountain lions in Pennsylvania. No evidence points to a breeding population setting up camp.
  2. Difficulties in confirmation: Not all the reported sightings get the official nod. Some could be cases of mistaken identity with other big cats like bobcats or coyotes.
  3. Habitat fragmentation: Thanks to us humans and our developments, the natural digs are getting chopped up. This habitat fragmentation might throw a wrench into the works for a solid mountain lion population to call Pennsylvania home.

Current Status:

So, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is throwing around the term “extinct” for mountain lions in the state. But, hold up – they’re not closing the chapter completely. They’re open to the idea of the occasional mountain lion adventurer making a pitstop. The public’s got the green light to ring them up if they spot anything unusual. It’s a “calling it extinct, but keeping our eyes peeled” kind of situation.

Can You Shoot A Mountain Lion In Pennsylvania?

Mountain Lion In Pennsylvania
Mountain Lion In Pennsylvania: Everything You Need To Know

In Pennsylvania, it is unlawful to kill or shoot a mountain lion, as the Pennsylvania Game Commission has categorized them as an endangered animal in the state. 

Thus, hunting or killing of mountain lions is strictly forbidden. However, if mountain lions cause damage to livestock and are a threat to human life then they can be taken down with the help of the division by filing a report to them where they will capture them and prevent them from imposing death or harm.

Here’s why you cannot shoot a mountain lion in Pennsylvania:

Locked by the Law:

  1. Protected Status: Mountain lions in Pennsylvania are rocking the “extinct” label and are covered by the Pennsylvania Game and Wildlife Code. Plus, they’ve got a seat on the threatened species list in the eastern United States, thanks to the Endangered Species Act.

Ethical Compass Points Against:

  1. Ecosystem MVPs: Mountain lions aren’t just chilling in the woods; they’re ecological superheroes. Knocking them off the scene messes with the natural flow, especially their role in keeping deer populations in check, which has a domino effect on other wildlife.

Safety Dance:

  1. Public Safety: Sure, mountain lion-human showdowns aren’t everyday occurrences, but firing at them? That can stir up some aggression. Shooting might make a normally chill mountain lion decide it’s time to get feisty, putting people at a greater risk.

Options Instead of Harm:

  1. Stand Your Ground: If you ever cross paths with a mountain lion, the smart move is to stand tall, make eye contact, and take it slow – backing away, not charging forward. Noise is your friend; it’s like telling the mountain lion, “I’m just passing through, no need for any drama.”

Be a Snitch, Not a Shooter:

  1. Report the VIP Sighting: Spot a mountain lion in Pennsylvania? Don’t grab your camera – grab your phone and dial up the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Reporting the sighting helps them keep tabs on these elusive creatures, ensuring both public safety and wildlife get the protection they need.

Also Check Our Guide On Mountain Lions IN US

Can You Own Mountain Lion In Pennsylvania?

No, you cannot own a mountain lion in Pennsylvania. The possession and ownership of mountain lions are strictly prohibited by the state’s laws. Let’s break down the why behind the “No” to having a mountain lion as a pet in Pennsylvania:

Legal restrictions:

  1. Pennsylvania Dangerous Animal Act: Pennsylvania is pretty clear on this – owning a mountain lion is a big “No.” State laws, especially the Pennsylvania Dangerous Animal Act, tag mountain lions as dangerous animals, putting a full stop to the idea of having them as pets without a special permit.
  2. Endangered Species Act/Federal Backup: It’s not just state rules; the federal Endangered Species Act adds another layer, listing mountain lions as a threatened species and further slamming the door on private ownership.

Safety Red Flags:

  1. Public safety risks: Mountain lions are no walk in the park. Their wild instincts can spell trouble, posing a serious risk of injury or attack to both the owner and the public. It’s like inviting a wild side that’s not meant for the living room.

Concerns for Creature Comforts:

  1. Cage Blues: Keeping mountain lions in captivity isn’t a happy setup for them. Inadequate space, lack of stimulation, and unnatural surroundings can lead to both physical and psychological distress.

Exceptions and permits:

  1. Almost Impossible Permits: There’s a tiny, almost microscopic, chance that the Pennsylvania Game Commission might, in super rare cases, hand out special permits. But these are no golden tickets; they come with a ton of regulations and oversight, strictly for purposes like education, conservation, or research.

Alternatives to owning a mountain lion:

  1. Zoo Adventures: If you’re craving a mountain lion encounter, accredited zoos and sanctuaries are the way to go. They offer legit enclosures and proper care for these majestic creatures, letting you observe them safely.
  2. Support conservation organizations: Put your money where your heart is – donate to organizations committed to protecting mountain lion habitats and ensuring their survival in the wild.
  3. Learn about mountain lions through educational resources: Dive into books, documentaries, and online resources to learn all about mountain lions. It’s a safer and more ethical way to satisfy your curiosity.

The Bottom Line:

Remember, owning a mountain lion isn’t just breaking the law; it’s not cool for the animal either. By playing by the rules and exploring alternative ways to connect with these creatures, we’re contributing to their conservation and ensuring they stick around for generations to come.

What Big Cats Live In Pennsylvania?

Bobcats, also called bay lynx, swamp tiger, and red lynx, are currently the only wild cat predators present in the state of Pennsylvania.

Let’s dig into the fascinating world of bobcats in Pennsylvania and touch on a few related notes:

Bobcat Basics:

  1. Size Matters: Bobcats fall in the Goldilocks zone of cats – not too big, not too small, weighing in at 15 to 40 pounds. They’re like the cooler, wilder cousin of your regular house cat, about twice the size.
  2. Look at That Coat: Sporting a reddish-brown coat decked out with dark spots, short tails, and these cool ear tufts, bobcats know how to make a statement.
  3. Habitat: These guys are the adaptability champs, setting up shop in all sorts of spots – forests, swamps, mountains, and even suburban neighborhoods. Wherever there’s room, they’ll make it work.
  4. Diet Plans: Bobcats are carnivores at heart, munching on small mammals, rabbits, birds, and even reptiles. They’ve got a taste for the wild side.
  5. Threats: Unfortunately, bobcats aren’t living in a worry-free world. Habitat loss, getting their homes chopped up, and dodging traffic are on their list of concerns.
  6. Population: In Pennsylvania, there’s a bobcat party happening, with around 10,000 of them running around. That’s a whole lot of wild feline charm.

Other big cats that might be found in Pennsylvania include:

  1. Mountain Lion Mysteries: Even though mountain lions are technically considered extinct in the state, there’s been some eyebrow-raising with occasional sightings popping up in recent times.
  2. Escaped pets: Picture this – exotic pets like tigers, lions, and leopards pulling a Shawshank and breaking free. It’s rare, but it happens, and suddenly you’ve got a big cat roaming the wild.
  3. Rehabilitation facilities: Some big cats might find themselves in a sanctuary or rehab center, courtesy of being rescued or taken away from not-so-legal owners. It’s like a retreat for the wild at heart.


So, in the wilds of Pennsylvania, bobcats are strutting their stuff, facing challenges, and living their best cat lives. And who knows, there might be a few mysterious guests and escape artists adding a touch of wild drama to the mix.

Also Check Our Guide On Mountain Lions In Illinois


Mountain lions hold a fascinating place in Pennsylvania’s history, and their occasional presence continues to spark interest. And that was everything you need to know about the Mountain Lions In Pennsylvania. I hope this article answered all your queries.

Thank You For Reading!


Disclaimer: The information provided in this guide is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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