Mammal Monday — A Texas Lion


These mammals have a mysterious aura to them, mainly because of their solitary and secretive nature. Multiple sightings have been reported, but are those reports always true?

Mountain lions, also called cougars, pumas, panthers, painters and catamounts, are typically found in remote areas of the Trans-Pecos region. They are also found in the brushlands of South Texas and some parts of the Hill Country. Mountain lions have a wider distribution than any other wildcat, ranging from Canada to South America. They are large, tan cats.

Mountain lions are native to Texas, and historically, these lions have trekked Texas for thousands of years, proven by rock art and fossil records. They were once more widespread across Texas, but because of human activity, they have mostly retreated to isolated and rugged areas.

Even in areas with mountain lion populations, they are rarely seen in the wild. By paying close attention, people may be able to recognize if a mountain lion has been in the area by looking for a few tell-tale signs: their distinctive tracks (almost teardrop-shaped toes with no claws showing and a three-lobed heel pad), scrapes (produced by hind feet kicking backward along with urine-soaked debris), and scat (larger than a bobcat’s and often near the kill site). Mountain lion kill sites can often be identified by marks where the prey was dragged. They won’t always eat their whole kill and sometimes cover it with debris.

Despite the rarity of mountain lion sightings, reports occur in parts of Texas. However, many of the sightings aren’t actually mountain lions but large house cats, bobcats and sometimes tawny-colored deer. Mountain lions rarely interact with humans, and attacks are rare. Only four attacks on humans have been reported in Texas since 1980. Mountain lions tend to prefer white-tailed deer or mule deer as their main dietary items, and will also eat small mammals. Some mountain lions occasionally kill livestock, typically goats or sheep.

A common misconception when talking about mountain lions is the idea of the “black panther.” Nobody has ever captured or killed a black mountain lion in North America. In fact, “black panther” is actually a blanket term for any large cat with a melanated coat, usually a jaguar or leopard.

Though “black panthers” may not be real in Texas, the mystery of mountain lions still holds true.

To learn more about the about the animals that call Texas home subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Whether in print or through our mobile app, choose the version that works best for you.


  1. On of our neighbors has a mountain lion living in a cave on their property here in Hunt, TX

  2. I came in contact with a mountain lion just outside of Beeville texas it walked in front of a straw target I had a recurved bear bow and field tips maybe 25 to 30 feet away he walked right in front of target and turned and looked at me and I froze he could have attacked but did not. It was one of those things you never forget. This was around 1968

  3. One ran in front of my car while leaving Matagorda beach.

  4. I live in Abilene Texas. A horse in southern Taylor county was attacked recently. On a ring door bell camera, in Tuscola, a mom cougar and 3 cubs were seen in a new subdivision. We are not in south Texas. West central...

  5. first one I saw back in the mid 60s, and was on Dyess AFB...Abilene Tx...
    second one was east of Lake Charles La mid 80s walking the edge of a soy bean field next to Boy Village on hwy 90.

  6. I've seen the wounds on horses in the Waxahachie area that were unmistakably from a big cat attack. Multiple family members have seen them in the area of east Waxahachie/west Ennis south of US 287. Several sightings over the last decade as recently as this summer.

    1. They have been seen for years in Ellis County in the Red Oak Creek drainage near where Farrar Rd. crosses it. I live about a mile away. A bobcat jumps on my patio cover in the wee hours, but I have not yet seen a cougar.

  7. In far west San Antonio housing development Alamo Ranch are and Westcreek area. A mother lion has raised many young in the area and has been seen by quite a large number of residents. She has never taken a pet, but lives on the deer, feral hogs and a few other natural animals in the area. She has not been seen in about 9 months. I have seen her at or near the HOA headquarters in Westcreek several times. She was pretty old, and I think the state has relocated her a couple of times in the last several years. That's just a guess, though. Haveing spoken to a Game Warden in 2012, he said they are aware of her but she is pretty harmless. Just leave her alone I guess.

  8. We need to save our mountain lions as their numbers are dwindling due to habitat loss and hunting. Their diet usually does not include cattle, goats, and sheep.

  9. These cats have been declining in Texas Over the years as their natural habitat goes away. They seldom attack sheep, goats, and cattle. Texas needs to look at ways to preserve our natural wildlife much like Florida has and now California.

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