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2 Types of Wild Cats in Tennessee (With Pictures)

Tennessee is full of forests and mountains. However, there are fewer types of wild cats than you would expect. In fact, there are only two types of wild cats in Tennessee: the bobcat and cougar. However, the Bobcat is the only species that is still widely seen in Tennessee, as the Cougar was hunted out of the state in the early 1900s.

These cats are fairly different. Let’s take a look at each one separately.

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The 2 Types of Wild Cats in Tennessee

1. Cougar

Image Credit: Evgeniyqw, Shutterstock

Cougars are known by many different names, including mountain lions, pumas, and panthers. Whatever you call them, they are the largest feline in North America. However, these cats have not been seen in Tennessee since the early 1900s. Once upon a time, these cats were chased from the state due to overhunting and habitat loss. In this way, they join the wild elk and buffalo.

With that said, there have been several confirmed sightings over the years. Likely, these were simply exploratory trips by young cougars looking for their own territory. However, there is no sign of active breeding within Tennessee, which means that the species really isn’t “back.”

These cats can weigh up to 250 pounds, though males are much bigger than females. They can also grow up to 8 ½ feet long, though females are often closer to 5.

When you see a cougar, you’ll probably know it. They have black eats and are usually solid tan. Sometimes, their undersides are white or paler than their back. Slight variations do exist from cat to cat, though.

In Tennessee, these cats are protected by law. There is no hunting season and killing one is illegal unless you were under direct threat. Furthermore, if a landowner is experiencing property damage due to a cougar, they have the right to protect their animals and livelihood.

Currently, the state has no plans to encourage the reintroduction of the cougar or reestablish a population artificially. Furthermore, they are monitoring the current expanse of the cougar into the western parts of Tennessee.

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2. Bobcat

a bobcat in a forest
Image Credit: milesz, Pixabay

Bobcats are much more common in Tennessee. In fact, these cats are fairly common throughout the United States. They are one of the most common wild cats in the country. These cats are quite small and don’t get much bigger than a large housecat. However, they are extremely stealthy hunters and can sometimes be a danger to small pets. They aren’t threats to humans, as they are very shy and not very large.

These cats have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, which they use to hunt. They can also be found throughout Tennessee, thanks to their ability to live next to people.

You can recognize these cats due to the heavy black patterning on their coat. They also have pointy, black ears that are pretty easy to recognize. Their fur contains many spots and streaks.

Usually, these cats are found in heavily forested areas with thick underbrush. They like to hide and are very good at it, so the odds of spotting one is low. However, you have likely been close to a Bobcat many times.

These cats make dens in fallen trees and heavy leaf cover. Mothers make nests from these leaves and any moss that they can find. Rock shelters and hollow logs have also been spotted as nesting locations.

For the most part, these cats eat small mammals. Mice, squirrels, rats, and similar animals are common prey. They are mostly carnivores, though they will occasionally eat grass—just like our domestic cats.

Bobcats can be hunted and trapped in the state. However, this is rare, as they are difficult to locate and do not provide much meat.

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Bobcats are very common throughout Tennessee, but they are the only frequent wild cat to live in Tennessee. Cougars are occasionally spotted. However, they are not known to regularly live in the state. Spotted cats are likely exploring new territory before returning closer to home. It takes a long time for cougars to spread. Just because they have been spotted doesn’t mean that they are breeding in the state.

However, that doesn’t mean that cougars won’t become a staple cat in the future.

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Featured Image: skeeze, Pixabay