Are there mountain lions in the Valley?

Pictured is a Bobcat
For years people have reported mountain lion sightings in the Valley, but, according to local DWR officials, they've been extinct in our area since 1882.
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 4:02 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - It’s a simple question with very different answers depending on who you ask.

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources claims that they haven’t been in the region since 1882.

After speaking with several people who claimed to see one, I made a trip to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) office in Verona.

I met with Michael Fies, Wildlife Biologist with the DWR, and we spoke about the history, extinction, and sightings of mountain lions in the Valley.

“It’s not really realistic to think that they have a chance to survive very well in Virginia currently.” Michael said. " Based on the photographs and videos we receive, the primary ones that people mistake them for are bobcats. Which is the only large native cat that we have.”

Mountain lions weigh between 90-160 pounds while bobcats weigh between 20-30 pounds according to an article by the Iowa DNR.

Growing up, my parents always warned me about mountain lions whenever I went hiking, and everyone in the area accepted them as fact. People always had a story to tell about seeing one or hearing one whenever they were in the woods, and claimed the government was turning a blind eye to their reports.

He told me that there are areas in the Valley that could sustain mountain lions, but that the deer numbers there were too low, and they’d eventually make their way towards humans. This could cause an issue because they could go after livestock and cause problems for humans.

“They are moving Eastward, they’re now found in Western Tennessee.” Michael told me.

He didn’t rule out the possibility of an individual wandering into Virginia, as that has happened before. He told me stories of escaped mountain lions that he’s seen, but noted that they typically stayed close to people, or near areas where they were kept.

The DWR is open to reviewing evidence of mountain lions in our area, and Michael told me to always keep an open mind.

There have been sightings of mountain lions in Virginia since the late 1800′s, and it’s tough to imagine that every single one of them is misidentifying or lying about their experience, but it doesn’t help that there hasn’t been any physical evidence of mountain lions found either.

What do you think?

Are there mountain lions in the Shenandoah Valley?