In an article titled “Cougars moving toward Midwest” in the 06/18/12 Arkansas Democrat, it was reported that at least 8 mountain lions have been reported in Arkansas. Most of these appeared in game cameras that were set out by deer hunters in various parts of Arkansas. For years, I have been hearing reports by local Arkansas residents that they had either heard or seen a mountain lion. The southwest corner of Arkansas up to Hot Springs seemed to be the main location for sightings, however more recently the northwest part of the state has reported sightings.
In 35 years of hiking throughout Arkansas, I have only seen what I would call actual evidence 1 time and that was very clear paw print on a hiking trail along the Ozark Highlands trail. In all my night photography trips, I have not heard any cries from a mountain lion, but still at night you do start to really think that one may be near by. Of course everything seems closer at night!
The Arkansas State Game and Fish commission has never really admitted to the presence of the big cats, even with the photographic evidence. In this latest newspaper article they are finally stating that there is a possibility of the large cats living in the most remote parts of Arkansas. However they are still trying to fall back on the issue that these sighting are “captive cats” that somehow got away from their owners and not part of a “breeding” population. I am not sure what it will take, but I figure in about 5 to 8 more years Arkansas will start to have a season on the Big cats just like there is a season for bear. With the Elk population in Arkansas now close to over 1,200 animals it’s only natural that a large predator like a mountain lion would seek them out. The Elk currently only have man to fear during the annual permit hunts, as no other natural predator in the state would be able to take a full grown elk down. The deer population also seems to be out of control, yet another reason for the cats to come back to the state.
The article points out that the most likely areas for a mountain lion to be living in Arkansas would be the Ozark and Ouachita wilderness areas, as they are so remote. These are areas I frequent, so I will definitely have my guard up.