Posted by Christina Kleehammer - email
(WTVM) - For years, Alabama residents have claimed to have seen mountain lions or cougars roaming the land. Recently, there have been unconfirmed sightings in the Beaulah community of Lee County.
Experts at Auburn University (AU) say the chances of a mountain lion or cougar roaming Alabama are rare, but in our lifetime, possible.
Dr. Todd Steury is an Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology at AU. He has devoted his career to studying and protecting carnivorous animals such as bears, wolves and cougars. While bears and wolves are known to roam the state, cougars are not.
"I get calls from people about cougar sightings about once every week or two, and they are usually misidentification, and I know this because a lot of callers say they are black panthers and there has never been a documented case of a black panther in the history of man," Steury says.
He still welcomes calls, however, and would love to find evidence of a mountain lion in Alabama.
In 2008, a cougar was killed by a hunter across the state line near West Point Lake in Georgia. There was speculation that the animal was someone's pet turned loose.
According to Steury, DNA evidence confirmed that the animal was a wild cat from the Florida panther colony, an endangered subspecies of the mountain lion.
Steury explains that the mountain lion is moving east. There is now a population in Missouri, as well as confirmed sightings in Tennessee and Arkansas. He believes that one day, probably in our lifetime, the cougar will be back in Alabama. However, he doubts they are here now.