Hunters around Georgia's West Point Lake might be led to believe that Georgia has a new predator roaming the woods - the cougar.
A Sunday kill of a male cougar on U.S. Army Corps of Engineer land at West Point Lake, south of Hwy. 109 seemed to verify that thought. However, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division, this simply is a one-time experience.
"TThough cougar and panther sightings persist in Georgia, there are no
known native populations of these animals roaming the woods," advises
Wildlife Resources Division Region Supervisor Kevin Kramer. "There is
no reason to believe there are any more cougars out there. This likely
is a unique experience and while exciting, is not something for which we should be concerned."
The cougar, taken near the Abbottsford community west of LaGrange, was a male, 88 inches in length measured from the nose to the tip of the tail and weighed approximately 140 pounds. The hunter who took the animal was legally hunting deer from his tree stand at the time the cougar approached.
Initial external examination by Wildlife Resources Division biologists
found no tattoos, tags or collars, and the cougar had not been declawed.
Further examination by The Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens Monday afternoon confirmed the cougar to be healthy and well fed. Researchers determined the cougar had a very low parasite level and that the pads on all four feet were scuffed. According to SCWDS staff, these findings are consistent with a captive reared cougar, not a wild specimen.
Due to the fact that there are no known native populations of cougars
in Georgia, no permitted cougars in this area and that the closest Alabama facilities permitted to house cougars (in Elmore and Macon Counties) have accounted for all permitted cougars, the animal taken
Sunday likely escaped or was released from a non-permitted individual.
There currently are no leads as to who may have most recently held the
animal, but the Division will continue to look into all possibilities.