Observations of the Eastern cougar abound, but evidence is slim. For now.
Currently, most professionals believe that the Eastern cougar is merely a thing of legend. There is no hard evidence. No clear, credible pictures. No verified tracks, hair, or spoor. The few reports that have turned out to be legitimate were the result of released domestic mountain lions.
All that is projected to change.
Panthers are expanding their range eastward, perhaps most notably evidenced by the male cougar killed by a car in Connecticut in 2010. Researchers determined the cat was from a wild population in South Dakota, not an escaped pet.
Midwestern states like Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois have confirmed cougar sightings. Lions have already recolonized South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska. Healthy deer populations throughout the East beckon. What state is next?
Every state has old-timers who tell tales of hearing big cat screams, or seeing a black panther. Most hunters relish the belief that something unknown is out there. But scientists maintain that the Eastern cougar is simply not present; at least not in the form of wild-strain cats which are naturally reproducing.
Not for long, it seems.