Ohio is home to four distinct types of habitats and has a rich history of aviation and a vibrant agricultural culture. These four habitat types include forests, prairies, marshes, and the Great Lakes. But despite the state’s seemingly unlimited habitat options, can you believe that only one wild cat species lives there? And that only species has just begun reclaiming habitats in the state after disappearing for almost a century? Perhaps the next question in your mind is, “are these wild cats mountain lions?” That’s what we will uncover in this article.
Are There Mountain Lions in Ohio?
The quick answer is no; there are no mountain lions in Ohio. The bobcat is the only wild cat species native and currently living in the state. Mountain lions, on the other hand, have been extirpated since the 19th century, and until now, there has been no confirmed population in the state. There may have been some confirmed sightings over the years, but most are believed to be either bobcats or mountain lions from other states merely passing through.
The cougar, also referred to as the mountain lion, is a species that is entirely indigenous to the Americas. The mountain lion is widespread in Western North America, Canada, and South America. Unfortunately, they don’t have a population in Ohio.
Numerous reports of big cats, frequently claimed as mountain lions, have gone unconfirmed and undocumented.
Mountain Lion Sightings in Ohio
If bobcats are comparable to ghosts because of their nocturnal, shy, and elusive nature, spotting mountain lions is way more special because they do not exist in the state. In fact, there have been no mountain lions in Ohio for nearly two decades, so these felines are more of an urban legend than reality. However, there have been a couple of confirmed or almost confirmed sightings throughout the years.
A large cat that resembled a mountain lion was observed by an Ohio Division of Wildlife officer in the Shawnee State Forest in 2014. At around six in the evening, the officer said he had a 20-second window of opportunity to witness the animal strolling through Shawnee State Forest and was positive of its identification. However, the animal vanished quickly beyond a line of trees. The wildlife officer’s description of the animal’s color and its long tail matched a mountain lion’s profile, according to an ODOW information officer.
It was a mountain lion’s first confirmed sighting in Ohio in ten years. But it turned out that the lion was a domesticated animal that had escaped or been let loose.
In 2015, in Clay’s Park Sand, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources looked into a series of odd paw prints that measured five to six-and-a-half inches in diameter. The paw prints were telling and enormous, but it’s possible that a sizable dog, rather than a cougar, left them.
Where Do Mountain Lions Live?
Mountain lions can be found throughout the Americas. Apart from humans, no other American mammal has such a broad geographic distribution. They can survive practically anywhere, from woods, wetlands, mountains, and even deserts. Mountain lions easily depart an area if they feel threatened. But decades of intensive hunting in the United States devastated their population.
Mountain lions were able to reclaim some of their former ranges because of hunting prohibitions and conservation initiatives. Although there are no resident populations in the eastern United States, these states can occasionally see passing cats. These felines sometimes travel as far as the northeastern states.
Mountain Lion vs. Bobcat
The mountain lion is a massive cat that dwarfs the bobcat in size. It is a huge cat that can stalk prey with skill and can weigh up to 130 lbs. Moreover, it is eight feet long and three feet tall. On the other hand, the bobcat is only a little over 30 lbs, stands two feet tall, and is three-and-a-half feet long. It is undoubtedly a massive animal, but it is not comparable to the mountain lion.
The bobcat can run across the mountains and forests at 35 mph, which is faster than the mountain lion’s respectable 30 mph and allows it to escape many predators.
How Many Mountain Lions Are Left in the United States?
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 mountain lions live in the United States. Since mountain lions are solitary and nomadic, it is challenging to estimate their exact numbers. While some migrate across great distances in search of prey, others remain and breed in certain locations.
A state can only be categorized as having a specific species if it has a wild population of reproducing, active, and self-sufficient cougars. Although mountain lions have been seen in other states, they were merely passing through in search of food. There are currently stable breeding populations of mountain lions in 15 U.S. states.
Due to declining habitat, the mountain lion population is currently classed as steady but declining as of 2015. The species is not at risk of extinction overall, with a few exceptions, including the Florida panther subspecies and the now-extinct eastern cougar. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officially declared the eastern cougar extinct in 2011. Over the years, the absence of accurate lion counts has been one of the main issues with mountain lion conservation.
What Wild Cat Lives in Ohio?
The only wild cat species roaming around Ohio today is the bobcat. These elusive species once inhabited the bulk of the state, but by 1850 they had all but vanished. Although studies from the 1900s assert that the bobcat was once hunted to extinction, sightings have substantially increased over the past 20 years. In the most recent report from 2020, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, 499 bobcat sightings were confirmed. Washington County residents reported the largest number in the state (26), while other adjacent counties also reported significant numbers.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Chris Alcock/Shutterstock.com
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- AOM, Available here: https://www.akronohiomoms.com/ohio/big-cats/
- Cleveland.com, Available here: https://www.cleveland.com/outdoors/2014/07/mountain_lion_spotting_roaming.html
- Hepper, Available here: https://www.hepper.com/are-there-wild-cats-in-ohio/