How Many Mountain Lions Are in New York?

A rumor has been going around that you can find many mountain lions in the New York area.

We’re here to help clear things up. There is some truth to the statement, but it’s a bit more complicated than just a population of mountain lions living in the New York area.

As of right now, there is a 0 recorded population of mountain lions living in New York. The main reason people believe that there is a mountain lion population is that there have been some reported sightings.

However, these are far-off occasions and are a rare sight in the more rural areas of New York state.

You probably won’t find a mountain lion roaming around in any major city, as they tend to stick to the wild.

Below, we’ll explain why there are still mountain lion sightings even though there isn’t a recorded population.

So, keep reading if you’re interested in knowing about mountain lions and their history in New York.

Table of Contents

What is a Mountain Lion?

mountain lion

First, we need to clear up what a mountain lion is. For those of you who don’t live in a rural area, you most likely didn’t know that different types of lions live in the mountains.

Sure, people use the term mountain lion, but they refer to a specific species living in the area.

For New York, when people use the term “mountain lion,” they refer to a Cougar, Puma, Panther, or Catamount.

These are all large cat species that are native to the Americas. What keeps them in the same term is that all of these large cats are covered in tawny-beige fur and are large in stature. 

Are the Cougars, Pumas, Panthers, or Catamounts the Same?

They all share a common lineage, and they are all generally the same cat. The main difference in names comes from the different languages derived.

The term “cougar” comes from roots in South America, where they called the mountain lion the cougar.

On the other hand, the term “puma” derives from Peruvian Quechua. The word Puma means “powerful animal” and describes the mountain lion.

On the other hand, the mountain lion is widely used in many areas.

Where Are Mountain Lions Generally Located?

mountain lion

Generally, mountain lions will live in an area where they can find a sustainable food source. Most mountain lion breeds tend to feed on small to medium-sized animals.

Their favorite type of animal to hunt is deer. So, any area with a large deer population is likely to draw in mountain lions.

Their favorite living habitat tends to be steep and rocky canyons. Other than that, mountain terrain tends to also see a lot of mountain lions.

Hence, they are called “mountain” lions because they often dwell on mountains.

However, they can be found in other regions as well. They can dwell in deserts and coastal forests. Mainly anywhere from sea level to 10,000 or more feet in elevation.

Can You Find Mountain Lions In New York?

Yes, mountain lions have been sighted in New York, but they are not from native populations.

Most of the mountain lion population lives in surrounding areas and likely wandered into the New York area.

Commonly spotted mountain lions come from cougars that are native to South Dakota.

New York did have a native population of mountain lions, but they have since been driven out and no longer live there.

Another few reported signings of mountain lions in the New York state area have been from captive mountain lions that had escaped their facilities.

spotted mountain lion

Hence, there have been rumors about mountain lions living in the New York area.

Is It True the DEC Released Mountain Lions to Control Deer Populations?

The Department of Environmental Conservation was rumored to have released cougars into the wild in the New York state area to help control deer populations.

However, these rumors are not true, and the DEC has officially stated that they have never released any cougars.

They further explain the internet rumors and debunk a few photos of mountain lion spottings that supposedly happened in New York.

Some of the photos floating around online have fake origins of people claiming the picture happened in New York.

However, the DEC has found the original sources of these photos, and most of them are in areas not in New York.

For example, one photo was from a campsite in Wyoming, while another was of a mountain lion in Santa Monica, California.

Other photos have been photoshopped or edited to make it seem like the photo was taken in New York.

One person claimed that he did this to prank his family members but later wanted the picture taken out of context.

How to Report a Mountain Lion Sighting in New York

Mountain Lion Sighting

Below, you will find the steps you will need to take to properly report a mountain lion:

  1. Contact the DEC by phone and talk to a representative.
  2. Check for tracks, scat, or other signs that have been left by the animal.
  3. Take a photo of the tracks and scat and use another object to help identify the size.
  4. If you find tracks, place a bucket or object over the tracks to help preserve them until the DEC staff can view them.
  5. Send any information you find to the DEC so that they can properly examine it.

Frequently Asked Questions: Mountain Lions in New York

Are There Big Cats in New York?

New York State has big cats native to the area and can be spotted outdoors. The main big cat you will find in upstate New York State is the bobcat.

However, New York used to also have two other wild cat species – the Canada lynx and the Eastern cougar.

Are There Lions in New York State?

Lions are not native to New York state, but the area does have a few mountain lions. Some of them include the cougar, puma, and panther.

Taking a closer look, the Department of Environmental Conservation has stated that mountain lions haven’t been living there since the late 1800s.


What States Have the Most Mountain Lions?

The state in the United States has the most Mountain Lions in California. Sadly, California’s mountain lion population recently became endangered.

This is mainly due to the 2020 wildfires, which killed off a large population. 

Are There Mountain Lions in Upstate NY?

There are no Eastern cougars native to New York State. However, there have been a few sightings in the area.

The sightings are likely due to the cougars moving areas, although it is possible that a few do live there.


As you can see, there have been no native mountain lions living in the state since the late 1800s.

If there is a sighting or you hear someone talk about a mountain lion sighting, it is rare. New York is surrounded by other states, and the mountain lions have likely roamed in from other areas.

In most cases, news of a mountain lion is likely a rumor, someone mistaking another animal for a mountain lion, or a rare occurrence of one traveling for food from another state.

native mountain lions

If you want to see a mountain lion, they can be found at local conservations or zoos. Hopefully, we’ve helped answer your question.