The rolling blue hills of Kentucky are among some of the most beautiful places in the country, and the local wildlife agrees. That includes big cats. There are big cats in just about every part of Kentucky, but what wild cats can you find in the state? Let’s take a look.

divider-catclaw1 The 2 Types of Wild Cats in Kentucky

1. Bobcats

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The bobcat is Kentucky’s most common wild cat, and it can be found in nearly every county of the state. Bobcats typically weigh between 15 and 20 pounds, and their fur is generally tan with black spots. These cats are known for their short tail, which is less than half the length of their body. You’re most likely to see one of these nocturnal creatures at dawn or dusk, when they’re out hunting for food.

2. Mountain Lions

Mountain Lion
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Despite their name, mountain lions have been found in a variety of habitats – including Kentucky. These big cats weigh between 120 and 180 pounds and are generally tan with reddish brown spots. As the largest wild cat in North America, they’re not an animal you want to mess with.

Unfortunately, mountain lions (also called cougars) have been gone from the state for more than a century. The last confirmed sighting was in 1875, and there hasn’t been a credible report since. But that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. In 2015, there were several reports of cougar sightings in the state, though none have been confirmed. Any mountain lions you see may be captives that have been released or escaped.

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Are There Black Panthers in Kentucky?

No. Those animals are native to rainforests. If you were to see a black cat in Kentucky, it would most likely be a rare black bobcat or rarer black mountain lion.

Black Panther
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Do Big Cats Pose a Threat to Humans?

Generally speaking, no. Bobcats and mountain lions are shy animals that typically avoid contact with humans. However, if you do encounter one of these cats, it’s important to remember that they are wild animals and should be treated as such. Never approach or attempt to capture one of these animals, as it could be dangerous – or even deadly.

Am I Likely to See a Big Cat in Kentucky?

If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of one of Kentucky’s wild cats on a hike through the woods or while driving through the state. However, these animals are notoriously shy and tend to avoid contact with humans, so don’t count on it.

What to Do if You See a Big Cat in the Wild

If you see a big cat in the wild, it’s important to keep your distance and not approach the animal. If you’re concerned about the safety of yourself or others, you can contact the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife at 1-800-858-1549. Remember, these are wild animals and should be treated as such. Enjoy them from a distance!

Black Panther
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What to Do If a Big Cat Attacks

If the animal approaches you, make yourself as big as possible and make loud noises by yelling or clapping your hands. Try to scare the animal off by throwing rocks or sticks in its direction – but never try to hit the animal. And, most importantly, do not run away from the animal. Running may trigger the cat’s natural instinct to chase and could result in an attack.

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Frequent Asked Questions

What’s the difference between a bobcat and a mountain lion?

Bobcats are small cats that weigh between 15 and 20 pounds, while mountain lions are the largest wild cat in North America, weighing in at 120 to 180 pounds. Bobcats have fur that is tan with black spots, while mountain lions are generally tan with reddish brown spots. Many people confuse bobcats for mountain lions, but they are not the same thing.

Is it legal to own a big cat in Kentucky?

No. It is illegal to own any of Kentucky’s big cats as pets. These animals are wild and it’s not safe for humans to handle them. It also threatens the entire local population of a species when it becomes too used to human contact.

What should I do if I see a big cat in my neighborhood?

If you see a big cat in your neighborhood, the best thing to do is to leave it alone. It doesn’t want to hurt you, but it won’t hesitate to defend itself if it feels threatened. Back away slowly and get inside or in your vehicle. Never run because a big cat’s natural instinct is to chase prey.

Are there any nature centers in Kentucky where I can learn more about big cats?

Yes! The Kentucky Wildlife Center in Slade, Kentucky is home to four captive-born bobcats that can’t be released into the wild. They offer educational programs about native wildlife, including big cats. The center also has a variety of other animals, such as otters, birds of prey, and reptiles.

What else should I know about big cats in Kentucky?

Most importantly, remember that these are wild animals and any type of relationship with them is bad for both big cat species and humans. Let wild things be wild!

Bobcat sitting on rock with moss in a forest
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Knowing which wild cats call Kentucky home can help you be on the lookout for them next time you’re out in the state’s beautiful countryside. And if you’re ever lucky enough to spot one, make sure to take a picture – from a safe distance. It’ll be a memory you cherish for years to come.

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