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Are There Wild Cats in Pennsylvania? What You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Mountain lion lying on the ground

Pennsylvania is home to many wild animals. We can count on seeing bears, wolves, foxes, elk, bobcats, and of course, feral domestic cats. We do not expect to see cougars, pumas, black panthers, or mountain lions because, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), Bobcats are the only wild cats in the state. There are some individuals that aren’t so sure, however.

Over time, there have been random reports from Pennsylvania residents claiming they saw, what they believe to be, a mountain lion or black panther. To date, none of the black panther sightings have been confirmed, and according to Pennsylvania State Extension, there haven’t been mountain lions in Pennsylvania for 100 years.

Bobcat

The bobcat, also known as swamp tiger, bay lynx, wildcat, and red lynx, is a North American cat species. The cat was named for the “bobbed” tail, which appears cut and has a black tip only on the top side. Bobcats have yellowish-brown eyes and a white spot in the center of their large, black ears. They are easily recognized by their gray to reddish-brown coat, with black or dark reddish-brown spots and white underparts. The hind legs of the bobcat are somewhat smaller than the forelegs. Bobcats appear to be larger than they are due to the thickness of their coat and the height of their shoulders.

Length: 25 – 41 inches
Height: 21 inches
Weight: 13 – 29 pounds
Tail Length: 3.5 – 4.5 inches

Bobcats live in a large variety of areas that range from forests, swamps, scrubland, and deserts and are rarely seen by humans because they mostly hunt at night. While they prefer rabbits, they will prey on anything available and are well adapted to changes in their environment. They can easily climb trees and swim but would rather be on the ground.

Breeding season for bobcats runs from December to April. Female bobcats usually only mate with one male, while the males will breed with several females. A bobcat litter is usually two to four kittens but can range from one to six. The gestation period is 50–70 days, with kittens being born in a bush or tree, under a ledge or in a hollow log. After three to four months of nursing, the mother will start to teach them how to hunt, and they become sexually mature at one years old, two years old for males.

Are There Black Bobcats in Pennsylvania?

Due to a genetic condition called melanism, (an increase in dark-colored pigment), a bobcat can be a solid black color with their spots being seen only in bright light. This is a rare occurrence, however. Out of the approximately 12 known cases, the majority of the black bobcat sightings have been from Florida, two from Canada, and none from Pennsylvania.

Are There Mountain Lions in Pennsylvania?

A mountain lion is also known as a panther, cougar, or puma. They vary in color from tan to gray, are approximately eight feet long, and weigh between 130 and 150 pounds. A native of Washington state, mountain lions are the second largest cat of the western hemisphere. Mountain lions used to live coast-to-coast. Today, they are found mostly in western states with a small population in Florida and have not been found in Pennsylvania since 1871.

Domestic (Feral) Cat

a rugged feral cat ready to attack
Image Credit: ivabalk, Pixabay

Though we may not think of them as wild cats, a feral cat is an individual or descendant of a domesticated cat that returned to the wild and has never been socialized. A stray cat, however, is a pet that is lost or abandoned. If born in the wild, a stray cat’s kitten can also be referred to as strays.

Like many states, Pennsylvania has a lot of feral cats in urban, rural, and suburban areas. It’s not legal to kill or harm feral cats in Pennsylvania, but they are an invasive species that can devastate wildlife. Organizations work to control the feral cat population using humane trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs. It’s also illegal to feed or support feral cats in some areas, just like it’s sometimes illegal to feed wildlife.

Conclusion

There are many wooded areas, trails, and mountainous terrain in Pennsylvania. In the fall, the view of the mountains in all its beautiful color is breathtaking. Going on a hike to take in the scenery in the state is wonderful but if you plan to see any big ferocious cats, you will be disappointed. The only wild cats you may see are feral domestic cats, oversized house cats, and bobcats. Unless, of course, there’s an escapee from the local zoo.

 

Featured Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay

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