SAN ANGELO, Texas – Big cat sightings have been increasing across the state of Texas, however, many Texans have a hard time deciphering which species of cat they are spotting.
San Angelo Nature Center coordinator Selina McSherry said the center hears of sightings of bobcats, mountain lions, cougars, pumas and panthers. But which of these cats are people actually seeing?
McSherry explained how people can better identify which of these big cats they are spotting in Texas.
According to McSherry and the TPWD, pumas, cougars, catamounts, panthers and painters are all names for the same animal: a mountain lion.
Mountain lions tend to be between 90 and 150 pounds according to McSherry. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reports these cats’ body length is between three and four feet with tails between two and a half to three feet long.
Mountain lions have a solid color coat that can range in color from light brown to gray or almost black depending on the lighting. The TPWD said that contrary to popular belief, there are no black panthers in North America.
Employees at the San Angelo Nature Center explained that mountain lions are more aggressive than bobcats. According to McSherry, mountain lions are more likely to approach humans than bobcats are. Mountain lions will walk up to a person slowly as if they are stalking their prey she explained.
If you ever run into a mountain lion, it is important to not turn your back on the cat. Nature Center employees say that it is best to act as big as possible by waving your arms, yelling and showing the animal you are larger than it is.
The TPWD said that mountain lions can be found in remote mountains, hilly areas, or canyonlands. McSherry also explained that these cats have an average home radius of 100 square miles.
McSherry said that bobcats get their name from a specific characteristic they have: a short, bobbed tail.
Bobcats are also a bit smaller than mountain lions. They range from 15 to 35 pounds, standing 15 to 20 inches tall. Bobcats are usually between 25 to 30 inches long with a tail that is six inches on average, according to TPWD.
Unlike mountain lions, bobcats have spotting on their coats. These cats’ fur ranges from a reddish-brown to gray color with black spots. Along with the spotting, TPWD said that bobcats also have small tufts at the tips of their ears and fur that is longer on the sides of their heads compared to the rest of their bodies.
McSherry said that bobcats are more timid than mountain lions. These spotted cats are more likely to run away if a human is near and typically will not attack unless provoked, she continued.
If someone runs into this animal in the wild, McSherry said it is best to leave the cat be.
The TPWD shared that bobcats tend to live in outcrops and rocky canyons. With human settlements moving into their areas, these cats have been able to adapt to new habitations like dens and thickets.