Are There Mountain Lions In PA?

Although the PA Game Commission downplays it, increasingly, area residents and visitors are encountering big cats or their sign in the rugged mountains of northcentral Pennsylvania. Here are some recent examples:

Summer 2004 - We report; you decide! In July, Joyce and Jake Jacobs set up a remote motion-detecting camera along a deer trail on their 108 acre property near the Larrabee Y (a few miles from Eldred, PA). They were hoping to capture an image of a large sow bear and her three cubs that they had been observing for some time. Instead, they got a controversial image that at least one biologist called a juvenile eastern cougar. The photo caused quite a stir in McKean County, with viewers taking up sides on whether or not it really was a lion.

The photo is placed here for your review. 



Summer 2003 - On August 8th, three friends and I were driving north on Hoover Road. We were in a pickup and had just dropped off supplies on the Quehanna Trail we were to start backpacking later that same day. The area is very remote but the valley below to our north contains several small towns along the Sinnemahoning Creek. Driftwood and Sinnemahoning being the closest to where we had our sighting. It was about 11 am and Steve Kramer was driving slowly down the mountain since the road was only loose gravel and rather curvy. Steve spotted the animal first. We all got a look at the tan lion as it walked across the road from our right to left. I immediately noticed how large the legs and paws were, with a long thick tail that seemed to touch the ground and then curl up some. By this time the lion had spotted us and quickly trotted off the road to our left. We all took a moment to collect our thoughts since none of us expected to be seeing a mountain lion on our trip, but we all agreed it was the only possibility considering its size and characteristics....Ian Schouten



Spring 2003 - Black phase cougar watched for an hour by Skinner Creek residents outside Port Allegany. Click here for the full story on this sighting


June 2000 - Retired biology teacher Jim Baker of Cameron (along Rt 120 east of Emporium) finds tracks of two big cats in his garden. He takes measurements and makes plaster casts that are later identified as mountain lion tracks, possibly an adult with a juvenile.

Summer 1999 - down-state visitors hiking the STS Trail near Patterson Park in Potter County meet a mountain lion walking up the trail towards them.

1997 deer season - Jim Howlett encountered two cats while hunting near Cameron. Both came within 25-30 feet of Howlett before climbing into trees. They eventually jumped down and ran away. Howlett estimated they weighed between 100 and 150 pounds.

1997 summer - a camp owner and his wife had a large tan cat with a long tail leap onto the road in front of them while they drove along Ridge road near Hunts Run.

1996 fall - a bowhunter spotted a mountain lion estimated at 150 pounds in the Bailey Run area.

Many other sightings have been made by area camp owners, hunters, and travelers, including one on Bush Hill and another near Wrights. And, despite a set of fuzzy photos of a lion taken recently in Potter County and the plaster casts made by Jim Baker, hard evidence for the existence of a resident population of mountain lions in Pennsylvania remains nearly as elusive as that for UFOs. The game commission maintains that these sightings are of "released" or "escaped" exotic pets, or rare wanderers from more normal habitats. But some believe that the lions, as well as the now ubiquitous coyote, were "introduced" by the PGC to help control an exploding deer population; a charge the commission steadfastly denies.