Big Cats in New York State

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on December 4th, 2005

On Dec. 2nd, the Daily Stary of Oneonta, NY reported that 2 local men saw what appeared to be a mountain lion or cougar cross the road in front of them as they drove to hunt deer.

"What was that?" one asked.

"I think it was a coyote," his friend responded.

"It didn’t look like a coyote to me," the first said. "It looked more like a big cat."

They slowed down and saw a large, tawny animal with short, round ears and a long tail crouching in the tall grass. The creature immediately ran off into the brush.

While there have been other local sightings, the Department of Environmental Conservation contends that there are no mountain lions or cougars in New York State.

According to John Lutz, co-founder of the Eastern Puma Research Network: "I’d like to set the record straight … there are definitely WILD big cats in the Empire State. The majority of WILD mountain lions are in the Adirondack Park Region, but smaller populations survive in the Catskills & Finger Lake Regions."

The organization claims more than 900 reported sightings of these big cats in the state since 1965, many of them "from credible witnesses with backgrounds in forestry, law enforcement and wildlife."

Have any of our readers from the great state of New York seen one of these mystery cats, an "out of place" mountain lion or cougar? If so, please comment in this blog.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

17 Responses to “Big Cats in New York State”

  1. Benjamin Radford responds:

    I have investigated some large black cat sightings in and around Buffalo, New York. Every year or two there seems to be a brief sighting flurry. A few years ago there was a report of a large cat seen in the Niagara Falls area; it turned out that one had escaped from a private enclosure. An area magician kept several tigers and panthers he used in his act, and one got away. It was safely located by police but died of an apparent heart attack after being captured.

  2. Joe Biello responds:

    I have seen something of the sort in lower NY state , just 35 north of Manhattan! I live in Rockland County NY and back in the early 90’s there was a flurry of cat sightings on this mountain by my house. People who lived on the mountain saw it in ther yards and described as a small mountain lion! I was driving home one night and just beyond the reach of my headlights on a road that is right beside this mountain was a large low creeping animal with a long fat tail and it was a dusky tan color. It got across the road before my light completely hit it and was into the woods. I stopped but nothing to see as it’s very dark on this road. There was an article written in the paper and a paw print was found on one of the properties that are on the mountain. Never did see it again and it was never seen by anyone else again that year. I have hiked that mountain and surrounding areas and have never found any sign of it again.

    In Harriman state park which is another 20 miles north of me there was afamily that lived at one of the camps all year round and she had multiple sightings of a cougar there while she lived there. These cats are definitely around in the northeast and so is our friendly neighborhood sasquatch!

  3. Chris. H. responds:

    Likewise, the Eastern Cougar has been deemed ‘extinct’ in the province of Ontario, but last winter a trapper friend in my region (northwest Algonquin Park region) came across a deer carcass that had all the signs of being brought down by a single carnivore, most likely a cat by the markings along the back and rump (as well as the usual throat wounds). The deer population has exploded up here in recent years so that is likely all the encouragement a small, overlooked cougar population needs to increase its numbers and range.

  4. darkknight responds:

    I live in the Sharon Springs area and I am sure there are big cats out here. I walk my dogs at night and on several occassions I have heard a cat’s cry or roar. Although I have not seen one, that was no Tabby cat that was making that noise.

  5. sfoo responds:

    I lived in a very rural area of northern PA, Ceres PA in Mckean count as a young lad, 9-10 y.o.. During the summer of 1965, our area had more than one puma in the area. Not only were they witnessed by several farmers and residents, but my grandfather had a staredown with one in the woods while walking to town. But the worst experience was when my 2nd cousin and I were riding bikes back from his house to mine. We encountered some beef cattle in a panic at the end of the of their pen. We noticed a dark shape in pursuit and thought that it was a dog. But it stopped and noticed us and raised up on back legs and beelined for us. As it was at the back of the pen we had a bit of a head start. When I last looked behind me it was in full stride after us and I noticed the long tail swirling behind it. I was also aware of the short pointy ears. (yes, it was close). We cleared a knoll and barreled down the road to my house and basically jumped off the moving bikes. We related this to my grandmother who appeared amused and said that we should not be telling stories like this. The three of us went out to the front porch and to our amasment saw the critter that had been chasing us sitting in the middle of the macadam road right at the knoll ~100+ yards away. It was looking in our direction but did not seem to have the desire to come any closer. After a few minutes in turned and left. We would hear screams at night that would shake the woods and sounded as if a women was being murdered. Cue hair on entire body going up. This went on for a week or so and then the activity abated. I believe that a game warden had speculated that the cats may have come over from Ontario during one winter over the frozen lake Erie.

  6. heron responds:

    I appreciate your posts, as I didn’t want to think I was imagining things.

    I saw a large golden cat — the size of a great dane — walk across our NYS street in front of the car ahead of me as I was driving home. It walked with the gait of a cat, very quickly without running, and disappeared into the woods.

    This took place around 2005 in broad daylight, in a residential area with a lot of wetlands and wooded areas.

    The same year, I heard an extremely loud cat in the middle of the night. Several dogs in the neighborhood were barking, and quickly shut up after that growl.

    It was about this pitch …starting a half-step higher and sinking– and had more of a strike-out ferocity.

    We also had a coyote walk fifteen feet from our house, both back and front yard. It moved on within a week.

    This summer, our local newspaper reported a black bear on the street behind our house.

    All of this strikes me as very odd, because we’ve lived here a long time without seeing anything but a fox and some turkeys. There haven’t been a lot of housing developments that would drive them out of place… maybe a bit.

  7. mrm123 responds:

    My wife swears that she saw a mountain lion crossing in front of her car on a rural dirt road in Steuben County- this past summer. There are numerous reports of mountain lions being seen in this area.

  8. everlast responds:

    I was driving home from work one night about a year ago from Manlius, NY on my way to Dewitt on route 92 and what I thought at first was a dog crossed the road in front of my car. As I got closer I noticed it’s log swooping tail and how it moved like a cat, not like a dog. I noticed how you could see it’s shoulder blades move as it walked as you would a cat. It appeared to be black, but it was dark so I can’t say for sure what color it was but this was no dog and too large to be a house cat. My first thought was that it was a bob cat because it wasn’t as large as other wild cats but I don’t think there have ever been bob cats in this area in history so maybe it was just a young mountain lion. I know this sounds crazy but I know what I saw.

  9. desimone responds:

    My brother was driving on Rt 351 in Poestenkill NY (Rensselaer County) on 1/08/08 at 8:30 pm when he saw a mountain lion on the side of the road. He drove by very slowly and it crouched down. There was no doubt that it could be any other animal, my brother knows what a mountain lion looks like and he drove by it at about 5 mph so he got a good long look at it. His boss who lives in Ravena NY (Albany County) has a small farm with a few cows and he says he saw a mountain lion on his land on two different occasions in 2006. They are definitely in NY!

  10. mstauth responds:

    There have been large cats in NYS for years. They keep to themselves mostly. I saw one in the 70’s sunning itself in a clearing but somewhat hidden by a fallen tree. It startled me and I startled it and we both turned and headed in opposite directions. This was in Corning NY, Steuben county. A long way from the Adirondacks. It was a tan color, short hair. Maybe a mountain lion but seemed smaller. Many other animals frequent peoples yards for free food but the cats do not. I have seen bears, tons of deer of course, turkey, raccoons, woodchucks, turkey, geese, ducks, and probably many others I am forgetting. By the way, I don’t believe 99% of the stories on this web site. I’m more of a skeptic that a pseudo-science believer.

  11. jasminethehut responds:

    When my mother was in her late teens, she and her brothers and a group of friends were walking through the woods and at a distance they saw what they call a large “black panther” laying on a large tree branch up in the tree. This was in Cicero, a suburb of Syracuse, about 30 years ago. Throughout the next couple of months, other people around the neighborhood claimed to have seen it too. Since then the area has been developed… >:[ … And thats pretty much it. I asked her a million times is she SURE it was a big cat, and she swears on her life it was a black panther.

  12. leenie responds:

    mstauth……..Your area “Corning, NY is just a skip on the rd from where I saw the 3 BC’s tog in a field across from my house; back in the 1970’s, on East Hill that overlooks Elmira,NY “Chemung Co.”

  13. whorse responds:

    i was driving on I-84, in Dutchess county, when i saw 2 black animals off the side of the side of road. one was obviously the parent, and one a baby. they were playing like a mother cat with a kitten, and had that very distinctive tail movement that only cats have. i would have thought the were just regular cats if it wasnt for the fact that they were so huge, and pure black.

    luckily, i wasnt alone. my dad was in the passenger seat, and we both saw them, and both exclaimed out loud, “what the heck are those?!”. we then decided that they could have only been big cats. how else could we both have made out the details of 2 prone animals, 100ft off the road, in brush, while traveling 65mph?

    this was about 5 years ago, and every time i pass that spot, which is almost every day, i think about my big cat sighting.

  14. Maureen responds:

    I just got off the phone with my Dad who lives in Oneida County New York. He said that for 2 days he could hear a “Puma” in the woods (he did not see it but, could hear the loud lion type roar that they have).

    He also was speaking with a lady from Sauquoit New York, and she said that she saw one on her property.

  15. CCOPI responds:

    I live Forestville NY. I have not seen one but on of my trail cam cought a picture of something that looks like a large black cat. I’m not saying that its a cat or it could be a dog for I know. To see the pic

  16. therikers3 responds:

    My parents live around the corner from the State Park in Rockland County NY. They have seen the same large black cat in their backyard three times now. Not a bobcat or dog according to them. My dad got some pictures of it but it didn’t come out at all. They aren’t really scared or concerned because it just passes through and leaves them alone. I read on one website that they may be animals that were bought as pets and then let go or escaped. They are illegal to own I believe so that’s why it would go unreported.

  17. Donna responds:

    June 10, 2011 … A couple hours ago I left my home in Birdsall, NY to go do some grocery shopping. As I was driving down County Rd 15A I saw an animal crossing the road in front of me. Upon getting closer I could clearly see it was a feline of some sort. Tawny brown in color .. very long tail. It got to the woods just as I came up even with it. I immediately pulled my car over and shut it off. Two or three minutes later this cat poked its head back out but was spooked by me and went back in the woods. I looked up “mountain lion” on Google and that is exactly what I saw. Sooooooo … to all the DEC people who say they aren’t here … I say … YES THEY ARE!!!!!! I am still amazed!

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