Amber Alert

IN.gov - Skip Navigation

Note: This message is displayed if (1) your browser is not standards-compliant or (2) you have you disabled CSS. Read our Policies for more information.

CLOSE MENU
  • Business & Agriculture
  • Residents
  • Government
  • Education
  • Taxes & Finance
  • Visiting & Playing
  • Family & Health

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Fish & Wildlife > Wildlife Resources > Nuisance Wildlife > Mountain Lions in Indiana Mountain Lions in Indiana

The mountain lion (Puma concolor) is sometimes called cougar, puma, catamount and panther. Mountain lions once lived in much of the Eastern United States, but were extirpated from Indiana by the late 1800s. The mountain lion (Puma concolor) is sometimes called cougar, puma, catamount and panther. Mountain lions once lived in much of the eastern United States. They were extirpated from Indiana by the late 1800s.

mountain lion
   NPS Photo

Indiana has no breeding population of mountain lions. However, data collected by the Cougar Network and other states over the past decade suggest mountain lions are appearing outside their traditional Western range. This may be the result of an increase in mountain lion numbers in Western states. Animals found outside of their Western range are usually young, transient males. This reduces the possibility a viable population developing in Indiana.

How to report a large mammal sighting in Indiana

The Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife occasionally receives reports of large mammals such as mountain lions, gray wolves and black bears.

With the exception of bobcats and coyote, there are NO breeding populations of these other species in Indiana.

But one of these large mammals may pass through Indiana from established populations in other states:

If you would like to report a sighting, use our online large mammal report form.

Identification OF A BOBCAT VERSUS A MOUNTAIN LION

size comparison of a bobcat versus a mountain lion

Illustration courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation.

Bobcat

  • Weight: 15-30 pounds
  • Length: About 30-50 inches long
  • Tail: About 4-5 inches long

Mountain Lion

  • Weight: 80-160 pounds
  • Length: About 7-8 feet long
  • Tail: 2-3 feet long (up to half of the total length

mountain lion identification

The mountain lion is a large, slender cat, with a long rope-like tail. Adults are a uniform tan or tawny in color, with a white or cream-colored chin, undersides and inner legs.

Bobcats, feral cats and domestic dogs may be misidentified as mountain lion. Below is a list of physical characteristics that distinguish mountain lions from more common species.

Coloration

  • Coat overall is tawny but can vary
  • Belly, underside, inside legs and chin are white or creamy
  • Black-tipped tail
  • Some black on the front of the muzzle, below the nose
  • Back of the ears are solid black or gray 
  • No black phases have been documented in North America, only South America

Tracks

  • Approximately 3-4 inches in length and 3-4.5 inches wide
  • Round and often wider than they are long
  • No claws 
front mt. lion tracks
Front Track

back mt. lion tracks
Back Track

Reporting a Mountain Lion Observation

The DNR ensures mountain lion information is accurately maintained using a system to receive, record and review mountain lion reports. In 2010, the DNR confirmed a mountain lion in rural Greene County, northeast of Bloomfield. The DNR receives many mountain lion reports. Most prove to be a species other than a mountain lion, are inconclusive or are part of an Internet hoax.

To report a mountain lion sighting or encounter use our online large mammal report form. Only reports including a clear, verifiable picture of a mountain lion in a verifiable location; a picture or plaster cast of mountain lion tracks; or other evidence of specific mountain lion behavior will be field investigated. Others will be entered into the database as unconfirmed reports.

IF YOU ENCOUNTER A MOUNTAIN LION

The prospect of mountain lions alarms many citizens; however, the likelihood of encountering a mountain lion in Indiana is remote. The same is true even in Western states with breeding populations because these are reclusive animals. There is little likelihood for this animal to be seen in large cities, neighborhoods and other areas where there are humans.

If an encounter does happen, follow this advice from authorities in Western states:

  • Do not approach a mountain lion. Give it a way to escape.
  • Do not run from a mountain lion. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact.
  • Do not crouch or bend over. Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms and open your jacket or shirt. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice.
  • Hold children and pets near you.
  • Fight back if attacked using big sticks, stones or any other available items.

LEGAL STATUS

The mountain lion in Indiana is protected as an exotic mammal. State law allows a resident landowner or tenant to kill a mountain lion while it is causing damage to property owned or leased by the landowner or tenant. If the landowner/tenant wishes to have someone else kill the mountain lion, that person must get a permit from the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife. Any mountain lion killed should be immediately reported to a DNR wildlife biologist or Central Dispatch of Law Enforcement.

MORE MOUNTAIN LION INFORMATION

Cougarnet.org provides an identification guide describing how to tell mountain lions from other animals.