Cougar sightings in Tennessee 5 years ago; are they making a comeback?

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Over the last several years, you may have heard about numerous bobcat sightings in Middle Tennessee, but during 2015 through 2016 a much larger cat was seen in the Midstate…a cougar.

They had not been seen in Tennessee since the early 1900s. Are they making a comeback?

Cougar in Humphreys County in 2016

Joy Sweaney, a wildlife biologist with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency explained that with the help of trail cameras set up by hunters, they were able to confirm the animal’s presence.

Cougar in Obion County in 2015

“In 2015, we had a cougar show up that we were able to confirm with hard evidence was actually a cougar and was actually in our state” explained Sweaney. “And so, over the course of the next year, pretty much from September 2015 to September 2016, there were 10 cougar sightings that we were able to verify, and we believe that that was the one same cougar.”

Cougar in Humphreys County in 2015
Confirmed Cougar Sightings in Humphreys, Wayne, and Obion Counties

“And so, it was traveling and you can kind of see on the map where the first sighting was in Western and Northwestern Tennessee and eventually made its way down to Wayne County in Southern Middle Tennessee, and then after that, we haven’t heard nor seen of a cougar since in Tennessee.”

Cougar in Wayne County in 2016

So, is there any chance that they might make a return?

“Currently in Tennessee, I don’t believe there are any more out there,” said Sweaney. “Especially with deer season having just ended. That’s the main way that we’ve been able to get those confirmed sightings, is by those game cameras that deer hunters put out to enhance their deer hunting.”

“But the populations of cougars on the other side of the Mississippi River are doing really well, and so the possibility of another transient coming through Tennessee is substantial. It could happen so we could get another cougar in Tennessee.”

So hunters, keep those cameras rolling and let the TWRA know what you see!

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