NJ Mountain Lions (?)

Our local newspapers have been reporting that a few residents in Sparta (which is only about 30 minutes from here, and where my son Rob lives) have reported encounters with mountain lions.  Most other people are apparently shrugging these reports off as misidentification of a big house cat, or some other excuse.  Fish and Wildlife officials haven’t given the final word either way, and so the facts are still in question.

My own opionion?  I have no doubt there are mountain lions, not only in Sparta, but probably a lot closer to home.  There are thousands of acres of state and national park land here, with plenty of rocky outcroppings, plenty of swamps and almost inpenetrable underbrush.  Yes, in New Jersey!

Then, there’s this report of sightings a few years ago.  Consider that the cougar (mountain lion, puma, panther) has plenty of prey species in NJ – our deer population has skyrocketed.  We have black bears, so why not cougars?  While black bears have adapted to human presence, the cougars are probably (and fortunately) staying out of sight.  I’d be a lot more concerned about a cougar on my porch than a black bear anyday.

I haven’t seen any cougars in NJ myself, but I was privilaged to see a Florida panther one morning when I was running a banding station in Florida near the Myakka River State Park.  The cougar was walking through a field when I arrived in the morning to open nets.  Even through the fog, it was obvious this was not a house cat!  A few days later, two others also saw the cougar just down the road, this time through a birding scope, so my sighting was sort of validated.

When I lived in Kentucky, adjacent to the Daniel Boone National Forest, the locals would talk about a black panther that had been seen there many times over many years.  The spot where the panter reportedly crossed the road was about a mile from our house, and oddly enough, referred to as ‘panther crossing.’  I don’t doubt for a minute there are panthers in that part of Kentucky.

Incidentally, the  black panther  in KY is not the same as the black panthers of the jungles.  The KY panther would be a melanistic cougar, just like the black panthers of the jungles are melanistic jaguars.   Either case…very cool!!


25 Responses to “NJ Mountain Lions (?)”

  1. Nina Says:

    I’m always surprised when I hear of something out of the ordinary in an area.
    Here, in SW Ohio, we apparently should keep an eye out for badgers–a new one for me!
    And, my neighbor swears she hears a bobcat at night.
    Just when we’re sure it couldn’t possibly be–there it is!

    • bob Says:

      I have a friend who’s dad is part of NJDFW and he said “that up in Stillwater, they have released 2 mounntain lions(male and female) to keep the deer population down.”
      O and have any of you ever heard of PANTHER VALLEY, NJ. Its next to hacketstown and is named after the panthers that used to live there but were hunted to extinction in that area. SO big cats were and STILL are around!!!!

  2. Lynne at Hasty Brook. Says:

    Very cool indeed. To me big cats are the symbol of what is wild and untamed. The thought of seeing or being near one is just thrilling.

  3. mon@rch Says:

    Hmm, we get reports of these also but never any real proof they are around! One reason I always take my camera with me!

  4. Ruth Says:

    Hmmm- I may be tempted to bang a pot when hiking. It would be neat to see one in the wild…from a distance. I hope people are not out hunting them.

  5. KGMom Says:

    I agree–cool. Scary yes, but I am always heartened that other animals have not succumbed to human encroachment everywhere.

  6. Carolyn Hoffman Says:

    My dad has collected an amazing number of cougar reports from here in southern Pa. over the years A large majority of them come from reputable and knowledgeable people–farmers, people who spend a lot of time outdoors and know the difference between a house cat, a bobcat and a cougar. The local Game Commission never seems to believe it, but the reports keep coming in at least every other year or so.

    Carolyn H.

  7. obi4240 Says:

    Nina – I wouldn’t doubt you have bobcats there either. They are a lot more common than people think because they are so secretive.

    Lynne – we think alike!

    Mon@arch – we’re waiting for photos!

    Ruth – Ha! Hadn’t thought of banging a pot. Might work.

    KGMOM – A little scary, yes, but they surely seem to be staying out of sight.

    Carolyn – It’s interesting that few people believe the folks that spend all their time outdoors. Reports must mean something…

  8. pablo Says:

    There have been reports of mountain lions in Missouri for years, but the Conservation Department always claimed they were misidentification. Then one was hit by a car in Kansas City — in the city — and the Department had to acknowledge their presence. The rumor is that once the Department did so, it would have to reallocate a lot of its funding to study the big cats, and no one wanted to give up their money.

  9. Larry Says:

    We’v had reports in CT. too.-I guess they gathered some evidence of a den and collected samples.-The other possibility that they have to rule out is that it might be an escaped exotic pet.

  10. Ryan Says:

    There have been a few sightings here in NJ in the Watchung Mountains. My hometown of Plainfield is at the base of the Watchungs and we have seen an explosion in deer population over the last 5 years or so. Now we see them all the time during the day, night, small herds and such. There is no shortage of prey supply or habitat in the mountains for the big cat. Also noting many more fox sightings and even had a coyote sighting by my house.

  11. Gesia Rosenberg Says:

    II live in Hardwick, Warren County, NJ.This is all rural and my Property is sorrounded by the rige and right by the Delaware Park area with the River not to far from my area. The terrain is perfect for Mountain Lion Habitat and they are here. Not only are they here but so is something tht looks either like the Jaguarandy from Mexico or one of the Black Panthers you are describing because I sow one from very close and no, it was not a Black bear that i am so familiar with and it was way to big to be a black house cat.

    there are natural springs here all over the place and some have been fixed by the park for hicker to be able to have water to drink and for the people int he area. I get my drinking water from this springs and one is by the Boat Depew on Old Mine Road. I had gone last year durin a very hot day in August to get water and as I was driving back home there it was just a few feet away from y cae. I was coming from the side of the river where there is a swamp area and jus a small open space on the side .I could not belive what I was seen . The area where it was heading to is a very well known hicking spot that I had goe to before with my children and my dog. Well , I will never go out there
    hicking again as much as I ove to do so. I also have neighbors who live around the road of my property by the valley that is bordered by the ridge and they where amazed to see thay have had mountain lions on their back yard and so a couple of other farmers across the street and down in the Blairstown area.

    A few years ago when I lived in Blairstown, my mother’s Home Health Aid came one morning all freeked out because one of her girlfriehds had killed two mountain Lion’s cubs the night beforewith her car as she was .driving home.

    I also have friends in Monroe County Pennsylvania about half an hour from my place . Theyare very upsrt tothe fact that they have mountain Lions visit their property also by the ridge . One of the Ladies is the directorof the vector (mosquito Department) in the County! It is ridiculous that the State Game Dep here and ther still negate the fact that we got them here.

    • Jay Says:

      I saw a big black cat in the same area on Old Mine Road at the top of the hill just past the boat ramps….but it was more like around 2006 or 2007.
      I was driving and it went right across the road in front of me. It was a huge black cat with a long tail and it only took one leap to make it all the way across the road. No other animal could make it across the road in one graceful leap like that.

  12. obi4240 Says:

    Gesia, I am a little bit familiar with the area you mention and I don’t doubt for a minute that lions have been seen there. You’re lucky to have seen one so close!

  13. Alison Says:

    I love all animals but I definitely do NOT want to run into any mountain lions while hiking!!!! I am now wishing them all away to …..the west….

  14. Brian Says:

    Oct.6th and 7th

    On Saturday night we heard some very loud cat sounds in our backyard sounds that could only have been a bob cat or mountain Lion we live in Sparta on west shore trail behind us is a very wooded area and quite abit of rockface we turned our backyard lights on the sounds stopped, the next day we woke to find a dead doe over one hundred pounds with the rear end eaten out of it. The next day me and a friend removed the dead dear just above my back yard that night the cat returned just as we feared it might
    making once again deep loud cat like sounds so loud it awakened us at 10:30 and then it was gone tonight I will be ready with flash light in hand hopefully I will get a look at it and possibly a picture. The night before it was about 10:30 as well it only hunts deep into the night it is like a petting zoo for dear where I live you tell me what could bring down a dear that size kill it and start devouering it and then come back the next night to get the rest?

    • obi4240 Says:

      Hi Brian – thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. The only other animal in Sussex Co. that can take down a deer is a black bear, but of course they don’t scream like cats nor do they often take deer anyway. Please do let us know if you get more on this cat – and be careful out there!!


  15. Mountain Lions – Revisited « Natural Notes Says:

    […] a comment from Brian in Sparta, NJ on my post about mountain lions – and I still have no doubts that mountain lions could be roaming around portions of NJ – or […]

  16. greg Says:

    Saw your first post regarding mountain lions and couldn’t agree with you more!
    I live in the pine barrens which has over a million acres of perfect habitat, not to mention the other wild areas of northwest jersey. Big cats need three things to survive,plenty of large prey to feed on (as you said we’ve had a burgeoning deer population for quite sometime),plenty of water (the pine barrens has numerous lakes,swamps and creeks),and plenty of dense vegatation,which it has in abundance.
    I’m really tired of the NJDFG and others still spilling that same old party line that these are escaped pets. After this many sightings,many by qualified observers including policemen and state rangers,this is perfectly ludicrous and insulting to the people who have seen them. It’s pretty hard to see that long tail and confuse it for a bobcat,which is one of the absurd assertions;not to mention that the coloring is totally wrong!
    And finally,it’s a well known fact that fox populations are huge all over the US,even being seen in urban areas. Ask anyone how many foxes they’ve seen in their lives,and most will tell you none. I’ve spent about 25 years exploring the pine barrens,and I could count on one hand the number of fox I’ve seen dead(roadkill) or alive. They’re very smart,elusive and usually nocturnal,just like mountain lions. Enough said!

  17. Tom Wolfe Says:

    Approximately two and one half years ago at around 2:30 AM I was driving out of Marshall’s Creek , PA on Route 402. My wife was in the passenger’s seat, my mother and son were asleep in the back seats. About two miles outside of town ahead in the center of the road I saw a large brown animal turn towards my car flashing both of its eyes in the reflection of my high beams. Thinking at first I was seeing a small deer I slowed the car quickly to about 20 miles an hour. As I got closer to it I realize the animal had become transfixed by the lights and was standing in the middle of the road, I slowed even further and crept to within twenty feet of this magnificent animal. I said to my wife who was also transfixed by this vision, “Are you seeing this! That is a lion!”.”Holy S**t, that is a mountain lion!
    We were at a complete stop with this animal twenty feet off our bow in the flood of my high beams and all it did was stare at us. The coloring was gorgeous, the tail was long, it appeared to be a large male about the size of a small female African Lion. It was clearly a Mountain Lion, long tail and all. We all sat there staring at each other for what seemed like minutes but was probably thirty seconds. The lion put its head down and started to slink towards the side of the road. It paused, looked back over its shoulder and growled and hissed loudly and then casually walked down into the underbrush of the protective forest.
    I started to pull away slowly and my wife and I nervously chattered about what we had just seen. I pointed out that my Mother and my son were still asleep and had not see the lion and that they would never believe us.
    I kept saying to my wife, I don’t think mountain lions range this far? But we both know what we saw and we considered ourselves very lucky to have seen it.
    Tom Wolfe

  18. obi4240 Says:

    Tom, what a wonderful experience! Thanks for sharing it here.

  19. Pieter Prall - nature artist and author Says:

    Mountain Lion sightings in NJ have been regular for as long as I remember. My father saw one on the Aircraft Radio Airfield in Boonton Township in the early 1960’s. Growing up in the area around Bpoonton, Boonton Township, Kinnelon and Rockaway Township (all in Morris County) I remember hering of period sightings of Mountain Lions. In recent years three people who I know have seen Mountain Lion in Rockaway Township. One fellow who I know and trust told me he saw two cross Greenpond Road just north of the Katherine D. Malone School near the powerline crossing. Another fellow saw one sunning in his backyard three miles up the road from there. And another saw one crossing Splitrock Road near the dam. I sensed one being in my yard one night at about three am: I was working in my studio which is about 150 feet from my house and as I was about half way to the house after shutting off the lights in the studio for the night; I smelled what seemed to be a big cat in my yard. It was so overpowering the hair on my arms, back and head stood on end…I made it to the house unscathed. I never saw it; but am convinced it was right there in the darkness that shrouded my yard.

  20. NFsussexco Says:

    We live in the woods in Sussex county, NJ. About a year ago, I was driving with my husband, taking the Blue Heron Dr. exit onto Rt. 15 S when I saw a mountain lion. Even though it was about 7:30pm and dark, we were driving very slow as we entered the ramp on to the highway. Last week, my husband was driving alone to work around 6am & spotted a mountain lion again. It was very close to the first sighting, also on Rt.15 near the Sparta Mountains. I wanted to document these sightings, as I know there is much doubt regarding the existence of mountain lions in New Jersey. We are very familiar with the wildlife, and see deer, fox, black-bear etc..frequently. I have heard coyotes attacking deer, but have not seen one yet. On both occasions, we are sure that this was a huge creature and definitely not to be confused with a 35 lb. bobcat. We don’t have photos or anything to gain from this, but to share our story and let you know THAT THE MOUNTAIN LION EXIST IN SUSSEX COUNTY, NEW JERSEY!!! Why won’t NJ acknowledge/accept this???

  21. 1rungirlrun Says:

    Today in Estell Manor Park in Atlantic County, NJ We were hiking and saw a mountain lion, full grown, running through the dense brush, It then stopped and turned looking at us from a distance, pausing for several seconds, then ran off quickly. Its form and shape and pace were very agile, graceful and definitely a large mountain lion.

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