The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries last week announced it has confirmed evidence of the second and third cougar sightings in the state in recent history, thanks to trailcam photos provided by hunters from two different parishes.
Upon receiving the photos in September, LDWF Large Carnivore Program Manager Maria Davidson and LDWF Natural Heritage Zoologist Beau Gregory conducted on-site investigations and interviews that confirmed the authenticity of the photographs.
“After inspecting all of the evidence, we have concluded with the best of our abilities that the photos are in fact real and of a cougar,” Davidson said.
The first trailcam photo was taken in Natchitoches Parish on September 4, and the second was taken in Allen Parish on September 29. The sites are approximately 100 miles apart, leading to speculation that it could be the same cougar.
“Given the time lapse between the two pictures it is certainly possible for a cougar to have traveled that distance,” Davidson said. “Both animals have the same general appearance of a young cougar, but it is impossible to determine conclusively if the animals are one and the same. It is also impossible to determine if the animals in the photographs are wild free-ranging mountain lions, or escaped captives.”
The first documented cougar sighting in Louisiana in recent years was in 2002 by LDWF Program Manager Michael Carloss on Lake Fausse Point State Park. That sighting was later confirmed through DNA analysis from scat found at the site.
LDWF biologists speculate that the recent occurrences of cougars in Louisiana may be young animals dispersing from existing populations in west Texas. An expanding population in west Texas can produce dispersing individual cougars that move into suitable habitat in Louisiana. Young males are known to disperse from their birthplace and travel hundreds of miles seeking their own territories.