VERNON PARISH, LA (NBC33) — A private citizen sent in a trail camera picture taken on Aug. 13 of a cougar. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has confirmed that the photograph is true evidence of the sighting in Vernon Parish.
LDWF Large Carnivore Program Manager Maria Davidson and biologist Brandon Wear conducted a site investigation that confirmed the authenticity of the photograph.
“It is quite possible for this animal to be captured on other trail cameras placed at deer bait sites,” Davidson said in a press release. “Deer are the primary prey item for cougars; therefore, they are drawn to areas where deer congregate.
“It is impossible to determine if the animal in the photograph is a wild, free-ranging cougar, or an escaped captive," Davidson added. “Although it is illegal to own a cougar in Louisiana, it is possible that there are some illegally held ’pets’ in the state.”
LDWF has documented several occurrences since 2002. The first cougar sighting was in 2002 by an employee at Lake Fausse Point State Park. That sighting was later confirmed with DNA analysis from scat found at the site. Three trail camera photos were taken of a cougar in Winn, Vernon and Allen parishes in 2008. Subsequently on Nov. 30, 2008, a cougar was shot and killed in a neighborhood by Bossier City Police Department.
The significant lack of physical evidence indicates that Louisiana does not have an established, breeding population of cougars. The recent sightings of cougars in Louisiana are believed to be young animals dispersing from existing populations. An expanding population in Texas can produce dispersing individual cougars that move into suitable habitat in Louisiana. Young males are known to disperse from their birthplace and travel hundreds of miles seeking their own territories.
Cougars that occur in Louisiana are protected under state and federal law. Penalties for taking a cougar in Louisiana may include up to one year in jail and/or a $100,000 fine. Anyone with any information regarding the taking of a cougar should call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-442-2511. Callers may remain anonymous and may receive a cash reward.
To report verifiable sightings of cougars with physical evidence such as photos, tracks and/or scat, please call your nearest LDWF Field Office at:
Lake Charles 337-491-2575
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. For more information, visit on Facebook .