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Are There Wild Cats in Louisiana? What to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

bobcat in the forest

Despite the fact the LSU Tigers are the most prominent college football team in Louisiana, wild cats don’t really exist here outside of the bobcat. Increased cougar sightings in recent years however are leading some to speculate that they might be migrating over from Texas. Continue reading to learn more about these two wild cat species that have been spotted in Louisiana.

Bobcats

bobcat in zoo
Image Credit: bmarxdueren, Pixabay

Bobcats are highly adaptable and have been found practically everywhere in North America except for densely populated urban areas. They weigh 15-40 lbs., which is about twice the size of the average domestic cat. Their fur tends to be thick and their tufted ears are perhaps one of their most distinguishable traits.

Though they mostly eat rabbits and squirrels, bobcats can eat small domestic animals such as dogs and cats. If you live in an area prone to bobcats, keeping your pets indoors at night may lessen their risk of becoming prey. Bobcats are nocturnal animals that hunt at night and don’t like people, but like coyotes, they will come relatively close to human dwellings under the cover of night when they feel safe.

Cougars Have Been Found But Only Rarely

In 2016, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries confirmed the first cougar sighting in the state in five years. The cat was caught on camera on a trail in Northeast Louisiana. The Department receives a bounty of calls and emails concerning possible cougar sightings, but most aren’t able to be confirmed.

Cougars are also called mountain lions and pumas. They have been known to attack humans, though not very often.

Since there’s usually a lack of physical evidence such as tracks, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has concluded that there isn’t a permanent cougar colony in the state. The rare sightings might be attributed to male cougars from Texas roaming around, looking for new territory and a place to mate. However, the influx of recent possible sightings has some people suspicious that perhaps there are more cougars than we realize.

female cougar
Image Credit: Geoffrey Kuchera, Shutterstock

Wild Cat or Feral Cat?

Most “cougar” sightings end up being a feral cat or a bobcat. How can you tell the difference between a predatory, feral, stray, or outdoor-only feline?

Size

Wild cats will be considerably bigger than house cats, and not in an over-fed, domestic kind of way. They will be more muscular and well-built.

Behavior

While the “scaredy-cat” label has been commonly attributed to all cats, wild cats or feral cats are actually terrified of humans. The only differences between wild cats and feral cats are size (wildcats are bigger) and how exactly they relate to humans.

Both groups of cats despise human interaction, but wild cats have never been domesticated. Feral cats were domesticated at some point (even if it was one of their ancestors and not themselves directly) but have since fallen back into the wild. If the cat is a stray or outdoor-dwelling, it might meow or otherwise seek human attention.

feral cats resting outdoor
Image Credit: Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay

What Should You Do If You Think You’ve Spotted a Wild Cat?

If you think you’ve spotted a wild cat, try to take a picture, but more than anything be safe. The cat will probably be scared of you and try to run away. Bobcats won’t attack you unless you handle their kittens, but cougars have occasionally killed humans, especially if they felt threatened or are in a place without food. Never run from a cougar. This can lead the cat to believe you are prey and they might try to hunt you down.

If there have been possible wild cat sightings in your area, protect your animals, especially at night when cats prowl around looking for food. Small mammals and farm animals such as chickens, rabbits, and tiny dogs are especially susceptible to being prey.

If you did manage to take a picture of the possible wild cat, send it in to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to see if they can confirm a sighting. Look for tracks near the area where the sighting took place and document those too.

feral cat on rock
Image Credit: Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay

Conclusion

Wild cats in Louisiana are mostly limited to bobcats and feral cats. However, there have been occasional cougar sightings, so if you’re in doubt, take cover and take a picture. Do not approach a wild cat and keep your small pets safe as well.


Featured Image Credit: milesz, Pixabay

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