It is uncertain whether or not there are mountain lions in Georgia as the populations disappeared from the eastern US and Canada. The only officially recognized mountain lion population in eastern North America is the so-called Florida panther. Sightings are sometimes reported in the east, including in Georgia.
North America is a diverse continent full of impressive wildlife. The eastern sides of the US and Canada are noticeably tamer in comparison with the west.
Mountain lions are highly adaptable animals. They have the widest distribution of any land mammals in the western hemisphere, even though their historic range is greatly diminished today.
Thanks to the more regulated hunting and trapping of today, they have the potential to repopulate the east. There are reported sightings in many southeastern states, including Georgia.
So where are the mountain lions that used to live in Georgia? Or do they live there now?
We’ll explore these questions and more in this article.
Mountain Lions in Georgia
Officially, there are no wild mountain lions in Georgia today. Since they have been extirpated from the eastern US, they haven’t yet managed to make a comeback yet. There have been sightings of mountain lions in the state, and it’s entirely possible that some individuals could travel to Georgia.
Mountain lions, cougars, pumas, and Florida panthers are all the same species: the Puma concolor.
They are often described as elusive animals that stalk the environments of North, South, and Central America.
It’s in this feline’s nature to keep itself unseen when stalking prey or traveling.
Even in western US states where there are stable cougar populations sightings aren’t too frequent.
In the east, where the only remaining population is the Florida panther sightings are rare. Even when people do see wild cats, it’s possible that it’s bobcats or common domestic cats.
Today, there are no officially recognized mountain lion populations in Georgia. The feline was native to the state but they haven’t recovered since being extirpated.
There have been alleged sightings in recent times.
Mountain Lions Subspecies in Georgia
There are only two officially recognized subspecies of the mountain lion. Only one of them was ever native to Georgia: the North American mountain lion, Puma concolor. This cougar once lived across the eastern US but it has been extirpated.
Mountain lions are officially split into two different subspecies:
- North American mountain lion – Puma concolor couguar
- South American mountain lion – Puma concolor concolor
Out of the two subspecies, only the North American cougar was native to Georgia. Today there are no stable populations of mountain lions in the state.
The North American mountain lion that was abundant in Georgia hundreds of years ago was identical to the ones found today in the rest of the US.
If mountain lions were to make a recovery in the eastern states, this subspecies will be the one to recolonize.
Here are the characteristics of an average mountain lion:
|Avg. Length (with tail)||7 feet 10 inches|
|Distribution||Western North America, Florida, and South America|
|Habitat||From rocky mountain plateaus and deserts to tropical forests and swamps. Prefers high elevations and steep environments.|
|Coat Colors||Tawny coats, ranging from a gray-silverish color to a reddish color.|
|Markings||Cubs have spots that fade away as they grow.|
|Bite force||1311 N|
|Lifespan||8–13 years in the wild|
Where do Mountain Lions Live?
Mountain lions live across North, South, and Central America. They are a highly adaptable species and have managed to spread and thrive throughout the western hemisphere. Their historic range covered most of the Americas, but it’s greatly diminished nowadays.
Mountain lions are predators that live throughout the Americas. Historically they were found almost all over North, Central, and South America, accepting the far north.
They are adaptable animals and have managed to spread and thrive over a huge area. They have the largest range of any land mammal in the western hemisphere today.
In the present, their range is greatly diminished. In the eastern US and Canada, there is only one recognized population of mountain lions, the Florida panthers.
In spite of their versatility mountain lions have been extirpated from large areas of their historic range in eastern North America. This happened due to human activities that caused habitat loss and fragmentation, and also due to hunting.
Read more: Where do Mountain Lions Live?
Could Mountain Lions Survive in Georgia?
Yes, mountain lions can survive and thrive in Georgia. Historically, they were abundant in the area. The state of Georgia offers an agreeable environment for mountain lions, with good physical geography and prey availability.
Mountain lions were found in Georgia in the past, and they still have the right conditions to thrive in the state. Before being extirpated from the eastern US they were abundant in the southeast.
The humid, dense subtropical forests of Georgia offer great cover for ambush hunters like felines. The areas with a higher elevation in the northwest of the state would satisfy the mountain lions’ preference for steeper environments.
There is certainly enough prey in Georgia to sustain a stable mountain lion population. Georgia is rich in biodiversity, with many species of flora and fauna.
White-tailed deer is the official state mammal of Georgia. It’s found throughout the state and it would be a great value catch for mountain lions.
Related article: Mountain Lion’s Diet
Other Wildcats in Georgia
Even if mountain lions don’t have a stable population in Georgia, there are other wild cats in the state. The forests of Georgia are full of wildlife, including the mysterious bobcat.
The medium-size feline has a stable population throughout the state. Bobcat prey is abundant in the Peach State. Bobcats thrive in Georgia, especially without competing with a stable mountain lion population.
Can Mountain Lions Return to Georgia?
Yes, mountain lions can return to Georgia. Mountain lions are already more frequent throughout the midwest and are slowly regaining lost ground. It’s a slow process but with help and understanding from humans, this feline can thrive in the east.
Mountain lions can potentially return to Georgia. Since the mid-western and eastern states once had stable populations of mountain lions, they have the right conditions for the felines to thrive.
Over the last couple of decades, mountain lions have been observed moving eastwards. They are slowly but surely recolonizing the mid-west, and they have been spotted in the southeast too.
There have been mountain lion sightings in Georgia, and cougars from neighboring states can easily cross into Georgia. Florida never lost its local population of mountain lions, the Florida panthers and panthers have traveled up to Georgia in the past.
In Tennessee, mountain lions also seem to be making a comeback. There have been many confirmed sightings in the neighboring state. Mountain lions could easily cross into Georgia from Tennessee.
Conservation efforts from humans and the opening of wildlife corridors between the east and west help the felines. It’s entirely possible that mountain lions will recover at least some of their historic range, especially with human support and goodwill.
Mountain lions don’t currently live in Georgia. They were abundant in the state in the past, but they have been extirpated from most of the eastern US. There have been recent sightings in the Peach State, and there are mountain lion populations in neighboring states. It’s possible that with some help from humans mountain lions will recover their historic range.