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Cougar Confirmations

The Cougar Network has been conducting comprehensive research on cougar distribution in North America for more than four years. During this time, we have documented dozens of cases of confirmed cougar presence far to the East of the species' recognized range. Detailed analysis and documentation for all of these incidents can be obtained via the interactive map below.

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The Cougar Network applies a rigorous criteria when evaluating incidents, accepting only those supported by tangible physical evidence verified by qualified wildlife professionals. Evidence submitted by non-professionals and private groups is only recognized after it has been corroborated by independent experts - e.g., natural resource agency or university affiliated biologists.

Six regions are used to group confirmations. Only recent (1990 and later) confirmations are counted. Green sections indicate known populations. Note that the Canadian provinces are not shown on the map, although they are discussed. Manitoba is considered with the Prairie region, Ontario is considered with the Upper Midwest region, and Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia are considered with the Northeast region.

Prairie StatesTexasSoutheastMiddle AtlanticNortheastUpper MidwestCentral Midwest
Green = Established Cougar Populations

Confirmation Criteria

Cougars are elusive animals, seldom seen even by experienced outdoorsmen. Even when a sighting occurs, it is often fleeting, e.g., a few seconds, before the subject disappears into vegetation. Sightings thought to be cougars are often misidentifications that are in actuality dogs, bobcats, house cats, deer, or other wildlife. Thus, only sightings backed by tangible physical evidence can be considered confirmations.

The Cougar Network employs two classifications for “Confirmations”:

Class 1 Confirmations:

  1. The body of a dead cougar, or a live captured animal
  2. Photographs (including video)
  3. DNA evidence (hair, scat, etc.)*

Class 2 Confirmations:

  1. Track sets verified by a qualified professional
  2. Other tangible, physical evidence verified by a qualified professional (i.e., prey carcasses, microscopic hair recognition, thin-layer chromatography of scat)

*DNA evidence alone should be interpreted with caution.  Confirmation from two independent laboratories and/or photographs from remote cameras at predetermined DNA collection sites will enhance confidence in cougar activity.

Note: The Cougar Network is interested in documenting evidence of wild, free-roaming cougars. As a result, animals of known captive origin are not included as confirmations. 

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