Folks in Durham-Chapel Hill “taught dey taw” a mountain lion. Wildlife experts say that it’s possible. Most reported mountain lion sightings in North Carolina turn out to be other animals: cats, dogs, bobcats, even coyotes. But that doesn’t rule out 100 percent a wild cougar migrating there or a captive animal getting loose.
On a neighborhood listserv, several Downing Creek residents reported seeing what they thought was a cougar. Caroline Cameron was at her kitchen sink late Sunday afternoon, Nov. 20, when she looked out across a creek behind her home and saw it.
“It was very large,” she said in an interview. “The tail was very long; it swooped down and then curled back up. It was tan with a white underbelly.” Her husband got an air rifle and looked at the animal through his scope.
“It wasn’t like we got a glimpse,” Cameron said. “We stood there and watched this critter. It was way bigger than a housecat would be. It wasn’t even remotely related to a bobcat.”
On the listserv, another woman said she saw a creature running near the UNC campus.
“It has spots, (a) long tail and (a) head like a cat,” she wrote. “It freaked me out, and I tried to take a picture but was all thumbs and shocked.”
If the animal is a cougar, it could be a captive animal that escaped or was illegally released. In the 1980s, two captive mountain lions were found feeding at a dumpster in NC’s Tyrell County,
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has had 10 confirmed cougar sightings since September 2015 – the first in Tennessee since the early 1900s. Most were caught on game cameras that hunters use to scout deer locations, wildlife biologist Joy Sweaney said. The agency thinks it’s one animal or possibly two.
“We think it’s a wild one,” she said. “Male cougars looking for new home territory can travel vast distances,” she said, adding that one cougar with a radio collar was tracked 600 miles.