Mountain Lion In Tennessee: Everything You Need To Know

Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Amin Tawar

Mountain Lion In Tennessee

Tennessee is home to a range of landscapes including the smoky mountains. While once these wild lands were thriving with wild animals like elk and buffalo, most of the wildlife has been extirpated from the state including the magnificent mountain lions.

Surprisingly, there have been few confirmed sightings of these magnificent creatures in a few parts of Tennessee. This makes knowing about these creatures important not just to understand and appreciate their role in the ecosystem, but also to support and take part in the conservation of these resilient creatures.

Below I’ve explained all the things you need to know about the mountain lion’s presence, recent sightings, the frequency of their attacks, and the legalities of their ownership.

Are There Mountain Lions in Tennessee?

No, Currently, there is no breeding population of Mountain lions in the state of Tennessee.

Historically, mountain lions were found all over the state. However, like in other parts of North America, these magnificent creatures were pushed to extinction in the late 1800s. From constant hunting to scarcity of prey, the population of mountain lions plummeted.

While the state doesn’t plan on reintroducing any mountain lions into the state, let us all hope that these creatures would naturally repopulate Tennessee from nearby states. 

Is Mountain Lion Spotted in Tennessee?

While there is no established population of mountain lions in Tennessee, there have been few recent sightings. 

In fact, the 2015 sighting was the first mountain lion sighted in the state in a century. These largest felines in the U.S. have been sighted in the western part of the state. It’s not very surprising, as mountain lions are known to travel miles and miles in search of mates and prey. 

Some rumors are also spreading that these creatures are wandering in the eastern part of the state. However, as per Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, there is no confirmed population of Cougars in the state.

Many people misunderstand the term ‘population.’ While you may spot a mountain lion in the wild, it does not mean there is now a population of mountain lions in the state. To conclude the presence of mountain lions, there needs to be a breeding female in the state not some individual dispersing from nearby regions.

Therefore, although there is no evidence of mountain lions living in the state, it might be possible that they are coming back. 

Mountain Lion Attacks in Tennessee?

Mountain Lion In Tennessee

As there have been no mountain lions found in the state, it’s natural that there haven’t been any reported attacks by mountain lions in Tennessee. 

It is also important to note that mountain lions are shy, solitary, and nocturnal creatures and often avoid human encounters. However, they can attack humans when there is a female and livestock involved. In fact, this is what got the mountain lions killed in the past too. 

As there are no mountain lions in the state now, you don’t have to worry much about being attacked by these creatures. However, as the number of sightings is increasing, do travel cautiously, especially in the regions where mountain lions have been previously sighted.

Also Check Our Guide On Mountain Lions IN US

Can You Kill a Mountain Lion in Tennessee?

No, you cannot kill a mountain lion in Tennessee. As with other wild animals in the state, mountain lions are categorized as protected in Tennessee. Therefore, it is illegal to kill one in Tennessee except when your life is in danger. 

Additionally, if your property is under threat from these creatures, you can contact the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The agency will take care of the situation by relocating them.

Can You Own a Mountain Lion in Tennessee?

No, you cannot own a mountain lion in Tennessee. As per state law, it is prohibited to own, buy, or sell wild/exotic creatures including mountain lions. 

The only exception to this is the possession of wildlife for educational purposes. The state allows zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, and rescue shelters to possess these mountain lions. These establishments not only protect the wildlife but also spread awareness among people regarding the conservation of such creatures.

Additional to legal issues, there are various safety concerns when you own a wild creature such as a mountain lion. 

While in captivity it may seem like they are under our control, these wild creatures retain their natural instincts even under captivity. Therefore, these creatures are unpredictable and potentially dangerous to human life. It’s worthwhile to note that, these wild animals also require special care from their owners.

What Big Cats Live in Tennessee?

Other than mountain lions, the state is known only to host one more member of the big cat family. The bobcats, these cats thrive in Tennessee as in other locations across the country. In fact, it is also believed that most of the mountain lion sightings are actually bobcats roaming about in the area.

There are a few easy differences between bobcats and mountain lions in terms of size, coloration, and tail length. As their name suggests, bobcats have a “bobbed” tail that is of a length of around 3-8 inches which is shorter than that of a mountain lion. 

Weighing just anywhere between 10 to 40 pounds, bobcats are also smaller than cougars which weigh upwards of 70 pounds. In terms of fur color, bobcats have uniform colored coats like mountain likes but with black spots and steaks which are not found in mountain lions.

Also Check Our Guide On Mountain Lions In Oklahoma


And that was everything you need to know about the Mountain Lion in Tennessee. I hope this article was informative and your queries were answered.

Thank You For Reading!

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