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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. They were extirpated from Indiana by the late 1800s.


   NPS Photo

Indiana has no breeding population of mountain lions. 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.

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.

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.

Size

  • Weight: 80-160 pounds (males being larger than females)
  • Total length: 7 to 8 feet
  • Tail: 2 to 3 feet long (up to half of the total length)

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 Track

Back Track

REPORTING A MOUNTAIN LION OBSERVATION

Call the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife (317) 234-5191 or contact a district wildlife biologist. 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, 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 the DNR using the contact information listed previously.

MORE MOUNTAIN LION INFORMATION

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