17 States Where You Can Still Find Mountain Lions in the Wild

Mountain lions, also known as cougars, pumas, or panthers, are solitary big cats native to the Americas. These elusive predators once roamed most of the U.S., but habitat loss and hunting decimated their numbers. Happily, conservation efforts have now led to them making a comeback in some areas. Here are 17 states where you can still find mountain lions in the wild.


Photo Credit: Kent Raney/Shutterstock.

Mountain lions aren’t called that for nothing, and they thrive in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. The World Population Review reports that the state has the highest population of cougars in the U.S., with approximately 7,000 individuals calling it home. Colorado Parks and Wildlife closely monitors puma populations and implements management strategies that ensure their survival. 


Photo Credit: trekandshoot/Shutterstock.

California has the second-largest mountain lion population in America. It offers these big cats a diverse range of habitats, from the coastal chaparral shrublands in the south to the towering Sierra Nevada mountains in the east. The Santa Monica Mountains, near L.A., support a unique, isolated population; the mountain lions there must contend with limited prey and urbanization.


Photo Credit: ESB Professional/Shutterstock.

With an estimated 4,500–6,000 individuals, Oregon has a robust mountain lion population. As skilled climbers, cougars can easily navigate steep and rocky terrain; their flexible spines and sharp claws allow them to grip rock faces and navigate dense forests. Deer are a common food source here, but they will also hunt elk, raccoons, rabbits, and even birds.


Photo Credit: puttsk/Shutterstock.

The vast, rugged wildernesses of Wyoming, including Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, are prime territory for mountain lions. This state is home to at least 4,000 big cats, and it’s a good location to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat (from a safe distance, of course). Unfortunately, the state still permits puma hunting in the winter.


Photo Credit: Tim Roberts Photography/Shutterstock.

According to Arizona Game & Fish, “Mountain lions can be found throughout Arizona and are most common in rocky or mountainous terrain.” One unique feature of the state’s cougar population is the presence of melanistic (black) cougars in the southern regions. These dark-coated cats aren’t a separate subspecies but the result of a genetic mutation that causes an overproduction of melanin.


Photo Credit: Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock.

Washington’s evergreen forests and the Cascade Range mountains provide excellent habitat for its estimated 3,600 mountain lions. Steep, perilous habitat such as this proves no obstacle for mountain lions, and larger individuals can make impressive leaps while traveling through their territory or chasing prey—up to 18 feet from sitting or 40 feet if running and jumping horizontally!  


Photo Credit: Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.

Rugged mountains like the Rockies offer excellent habitat for cougars, and Montana has a resident population of around 2,000 big cats. Pumas play a vital role in the ecosystem, keeping prey populations like deer and elk in check by removing weak, sick, or injured individuals. Despite being historically persecuted here, cougar numbers are now bouncing back thanks to conservation efforts.


Photo Credit: Inbound Horizons/Shutterstock.

Idaho has plenty of mountains, forests, and canyons that provide ample space for its mountain lion population. Being fairly adaptable, cougars can thrive in various habitats and move between different regions in response to seasonal changes and prey fluctuations. They’ve been sighted almost everywhere in Idaho, although they’re rare in open landscapes like the Snake River Plain.


Photo Credit: alpenart/Shutterstock.

The Mountain Lion Foundation writes, “With about 93,000 square kilometers of habitat, Utah’s cougar population is currently somewhere around 1,600.” Cougars have a sense of smell 12 times more powerful than humans and have no problem tracking prey over vast distances. In Utah, they often eat deer but will also hunt elk, bighorn sheep, rabbits, and even rodents.


Photo Credit: Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock.

Mountain lions are known as panthers in Texas but lack protection in the Lone Star State. Here, they’re classed as ‘non-game’ animals and aren’t protected. They can be killed and harvested at any time, and sightings are quite rare. An individual male, nicknamed ‘Chuck Norris,’ was seen in Texas in 2023, and researchers estimated him to weigh up to 150 pounds!


Photo Credit: Steve Lagreca/Shutterstock.

Despite its arid desert landscape, Nevada provides suitable habitat for mountain lions. Their remarkable agility and strength allow them to navigate the rocky terrain of the Great Basin region, where they prey on mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep. The species is a ‘hyper-carnivore’ and a strict meat eater that prefers large prey.

New Mexico

Photo Credit: Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock.

New Mexico’s estimated 2,000–3,000 mountain lions help regulate prey populations like deer and javelina, maintaining a healthy balance in the ecosystem. Populations are concentrated where there are the greatest numbers of deer, particularly in areas of pinyon pine, juniper, mountain mahogany, ponderosa pine, oak brush, and subalpine meadows. 

South Dakota

Photo Credit: Mary Key/Shutterstock.

The Black Hills and other mountainous regions of South Dakota provide habitat for a small but growing population of mountain lions, and the state has concentrated conservation measures to protect these big cats. The South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department closely monitors cougar numbers and hopes to re-establish a viable population of these predators.


Photo Credit: Cassanas Photography/Shutterstock.

While mountain lions are not native to Florida, the state is home to a critically endangered population. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that only around 200 individuals live in the Sunshine State and that individuals often show the negative effects of inbreeding and low genetic variation—they have a crooked tail and a unique ‘cowlick’ patch of fur on their backs.

North Dakota

Photo Credit: Svetlana Foote/Shutterstock.

Mountain lions are considered rare in North Dakota, yet hunting remains permitted and occurs at an unsustainable rate despite this. In the 2022–23 hunting season, 14 individuals were killed (13 from hunting and one from poaching). The estimated population of only 50–100 big cats will quickly be decimated if hunting is not heavily regulated or, better yet, made illegal.


Photo Credit: Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.

Mountain lions are rare but increasing in Nebraska, with an estimated population of only around 50 individuals. There are currently thought to be breeding populations in four areas: the Pine Ridge, Niobrara River Valley, Wildcat Hills, and Northeastern Missouri River Bluffs. This is good news for the state’s ecosystem, which will benefit from the top-down prey control these apex predators provide.


Photo Credit: Cavan-Images/Shutterstock.

Though not currently listed as a resident species by the Maine Department of Wildlife, pumas have made some rare appearances in the state in recent years. These sightings, along with tracks and scat evidence (confirmed droppings), suggest that mountain lions might be populating Maine from established populations in nearby Canada and could even venture further south.

Read More: 19 Common Behaviors of Highly Intelligent People

Photo Credit: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock.

Intelligent individuals often display a range of behaviors and qualities that set them apart from others. When exploring these characteristics, it’s crucial to comprehend that intelligence is a multifaceted attribute. Here are 19 essential behaviors and qualities frequently observed in highly intelligent people.

19 Common Behaviors of Highly Intelligent People

17 Things We Were Taught in High School That We Now Know Aren’t True

Photo Credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.

Well, this one may depend on when you went to high school, but for this millennial, these are the things we were taught in high school that have been proven not to be true. Personally, I still want to go back and correct every teacher who told me I wouldn’t always have a calculator in my pocket; the joke is on them.

17 Things We Were Taught in High School That We Now Know Aren’t True

16 Reasons Why Trump May Not Get a Second Term

Photo Credit: Aaron of L.A./Shutterstock.

Though Republican frontrunner Donald Trump thinks his trip back to the Oval Office is all but guaranteed, there are some real hurdles he has to get past. Here are the 16 obstacles that may stand in the way of a second term.

16 Reasons Why Trump May Not Get a Second Term

17 Most Dangerous Places to Live in the US – Cities to Avoid

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.

Everyone wants to find a safe place to buy a house and put down roots in the US, but some cities are more dangerous than others. In this article, we’ll look at 17 cities that you may wish to avoid, according to recent findings.

17 Most Dangerous Places to Live in the US – Cities to Avoid

People Who Had Unhappy Childhoods Usually Develop These 18 Traits

Photo Credit: Aleshyn_Andrei/Shutterstock.

People who go through a lot of traumatic experiences while they’re young can find themselves developing traits that stay with them through adulthood. What are these traits? You’ll find 18 of them in this article.

People Who Had Unhappy Childhoods Usually Develop These 18 Traits