Cougars are among the biggest cats in the western hemisphere, but since they are naturally secretive as ambush predators with a deep-rooted dislike for humans these animals are rarely seen.
There's also the matter that in eastern United States, cougars have formally been declared extinct.
In spite of this, spokesman Greg Lucas from S.C. Department of Natural Resources reveals that the department gets at least a call in one month from people who claim to have spotted one of the big cats.
Lucas said: "In South Carolina and in the wildlife community, there is no debate" that concerns the existence of cougars in the east, "There's just no scientific documentation to back that up."
Some reports - from people in regions like Travelers Rest and Simpsonville - have to do with only sightings. The encounters of others are more direct, like the one from an employee of U.S. Forest Service who disclosed that a big cat had pursued him into the Chattooga River.
But Lucas says if the big cats are skulking in Upstate regions, he is certain there would be more encounters, because of the capacity of deer hunting in Carolinas. There's also the issue of the complete lack of any big cats being knocked down and killed by cars on highways.
Lucas points to Florida where, in spite of a well-known population of lower than 200, several Florida panthers are killed yearly by cars.
Rather, he said most of the sightings are possibly misidentification of other animals such as coyotes, bears, or large dogs. When it is suspected that some kind of big cat has been sighted, he said the most suspected culprit is a western cougar that ran away from captivity as a person's pet.
In recent years, there is another chance that appears to be boosting in possibility. Whether they're referred to as cougars, pumas, mountain lions, or catamounts, wildlife experts think the cats exist in the western U.S as a steady, breeding population and, as per the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, transient western cougars have been sighted in the two states since 2015.
Things to do if you Encounter a Large Predator
Make sure you don't turn your back. Slowly back away to a place of shelter like a vehicle or a building if possible.
Do not run. Running could possibly prompt an attack.
Pick up little children or pets because they are more likely to run and are more susceptible.
Make some noise, make yourself look bigger by waving your arms. Throw objects and then shout.
If the animal attacks you, fight back. Avoid playing dead.
Related Article: Eastern Puma Extinct After Years of Cougar Confusion
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