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Which cat are you ACTUALLY seeing in the woods in Ohio?

Reports of unusual sightings of big cats are not uncommon throughout the United States and Ohio. From celebrities like Uncle Si of Ducky Dynasty professing to have seen a large panther-like black cat to friends and neighbors quietly professing to have seen such a cat or its tracks in Ohio, it is certain that the Buckeye State is not excluded sightings of large cats in the wild.

I recently checked in with a Wildlife Communication Specialist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife and I asked her what ODNR’s thoughts were on mountain lions residing in Ohio.

Here’s ODNR’s official statement on cats in Ohio as of late-November 2014.

“Last summer, an off-duty wildlife officer spotted what he believes to be a mountain lion in Jefferson County. Nothing ever came of it after his reported sighting. No photos snapped by local residents of the county pre- or post-sighting by the officer, no trail camera photos, no scat, no hair/fur, no tracks, etc.

While we have a significant population of state-protected bobcats (which people sometimes confuse), there is no indication of wild cougars/mountain lions in Ohio. It’s been 100 years or so since the last wild mountain lion was confirmed in the Buckeye State.

We have received many unconfirmed reports of sightings over the years, but never anything concrete. Concrete data would include photos that can be confirmed as snapped in Ohio, scat, tracks, or the animal itself such as a road-kill. We have not received anything of the like thus far.

Mountain lions are very stealthy and secretive animals, so they’re tough to track and locate. That being said, we can’t confirm wild mountain lions in Ohio until evidence supports such.”

I was motivated to contact the ODNR because a Facebook page dedicated to Homesteaders in Morrow County recently suggested that local folks had spotted a large black cat and large cat footprints in a portion of the county. There was much local debate on the subject with some folks believing a panther resides in our county, while others believe a large bobcat was simply mistakenly identified as a panther.

About the same time that these rumors were surfacing, a loyal OCJ/OAN reader/listener left a comment on a black bear story on our website about their very own panther sighting in southern Ohio. They gave vivid details about their experience which follow:

“I didn’t want to say this, but since you are trying to make so much about a little-old black bear siting… Of which over here in Adam’s County is no big thing. We have bigger fish to watch-out for… Or should I say cats? My wife and I, returning home in the early afternoon a few hours before sunset, spotted Uncle Si’s big Black Panther. We were driving down, south on St. Rt. 247, and just before we got to the little bridge and guard rails before Greenbriar Rd., there, coming across the road right in front of us, from the west side to the east, was the largest black cat I’ve ever seen. It was larger than any I’ve seen in the many zoos we’ve been to. It was larger than all of those we’ve ever seen on all of the TV shows. Its tail was as long as it was, and together, they almost reached past being from the roads centerline to the berm. It didn’t bound, but ran in a fast, low run and didn’t jump or bound in any excessive motion until it went up the steep bank on the east side of the road. Even then it wasn’t excessive, but just one smooth, fluid motion as it disappeared into the brush. My wife and I have lived in the bush, homesteaded in, hunted and lived in, Alaska for ten years. We are familiar with a lot of common, wild animals. We’ve seen wolves and grizzly bears, moose, caribou and even wolverines, a few lynx, bobcats, beaver, coyotes and foxes, let alone deer and black bear and all of the other common small critters. This was a big, black cat that, we’ve come to know as a Black Panther. I suppose, now, you can put us down on your “Crazies” list too…”

So what do I think? I certainly don’t think any folks that claim to have seen a panther or mountain lion in Ohio are crazy, but I unfortunately haven’t been blessed with seeing one myself. I think there probably are some mountain lions in southern Ohio. I also think there are probably some living with darker coats than normal that can appear as black in certain lighting and look like panthers.

Do I think there is a cougar in Morrow County? Well, no but I’d love to be proven wrong as long as we can keep our citizens and our livestock safe while supporting the existence of such a large cat in the county.

Let’s keep an eye out through out the Buckeye state and be sure to send me photographic evidence of the cats you are seeing in the wilds of Ohio.

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  1. When I was little I saw a Lynx I told my mum and she said that cant be so now I know as a kid i was not crazy

    • stephanie miller

      Several years back, I saw a large mountain lion shaped silhouette sitting, as big as you please, on the north side of Rt 6 between Fremont and Sandusky in the wildlife conservation area. It was in the middle of the night, so I could’nt tell the color, but it was not a bobcat…. much longer and leaner.

      • I lived off of rt 6 near BG and saw a mountain lion sun bathing on my road several years back. It wasn’t black but the golden color. My family told me I was crazy. I wonder if it was the same one! But yes, it was longer than a bobcat. It looked up at me from it’s spot (I was on a bike and stopped once I noticed it maybe 20-30 meters away.) and it just got up and went into the woods. I of course turned my bike around and went home to tell me family.

  2. 3 or 4 years ago I saw a mountain lion right on the Ohio-Indiana at the southern most point. While he was technically on the Indiana side of the border, it might be reasonable to assume he sometimes heads to Ohio.

  3. Check Route 33 -about 5 miles North of West Virginia border . Looks like a dead mountain lion along the road. Please check.

  4. I live in Williams County with my family. My father is a farmer and we own a large farm. We moved to this woods about 7 years ago and we haven’t had any scares or similar issues till now. Occasionally we get a raccoon or possum, but nothing this large. We own about 12 chickens and I’m concerned something is trying to reach them. Two days ago my brother woke up to go take care of these chickens. No one was around or awake and like normal, he took our dog out. As he walked towards our small garage/barn he looked down the hill. What he told us has nothing to do with moutain lions, cougars, or bobcats but his discription makes me assume it could be one. He said he saw a tall thing, about 6ft tall, and black. Our dog stood her ground right next to my brother not moving. She goes after everything. Birds, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, groundhogs, everything. But whatever this was she wouldn’t. He said it turned and ran making a human like screeching but not so human. For some reason he continued taking care of the chickens and nothing helps happened that that day. Today, I did research and it has lead me to this website. This evening, my dog started growling. We had our back porch screen door open and our woods surround our backyard, making it difficult for us to see anything. Whatever she saw, it had to be exactly what my brother saw. I ran to grab the flashlight and I shined it into the woods which was about 20-40ft away from our house. I saw a pair of eyes right away. It looked pretty high off of the ground. I opened the screen door and she ran so fast. I heard the sound which my brother tried to describe to me. A human like screech. It sound more like a cough/scream/screech. Whatever it was it was terrified. My dog ran to the edge of the woods and about 6ft in. It’s gone for now but I’m sure it will be back. If not, then I won’t make anymore comments. But I have a few theories. Black bears have been starting to come back into Ohio slowly but surely. If it is a bear, it could be either in a tree or standing on its hind legs. A cougar, bobcat, or I guess mountain lion could also be it. They could be up in a tree or if tall enough, on there legs too. I know I probably sound crazy to all of you but I’m just looking for answers. I’m not commenting sightings of anything because we are still unsure, but commenting what I’ve seen and been told. If you have any ideas, please reply to me.

  5. I do believe there are black Panthers in Ohio. I was coming home from the movies around 10:30 pm with my kids. When I was almost home on state route 329 just outside of Trimble, Athens county. Standing on the side of the road was the biggest black cat I have ever seen. I slowed down to take a better look and as I got closer with my car. It squatted down in a pouncing position layed it ears back and opened it’s mouth as if it was hissing at the car. I could see every tooth in it mouth and it had big k9 like teeth and big green eyes. And a long sleek tail. And it had to be around 100 lbs because it was way bigger than my 80 lb Male Husky. And to be honest with you I don’t know where or what it did after that because I got scared thinking it was going to jump on my car and attack so I floored it and was out of there.I know people might think I’m crazy because my husband does. But I know what I seen. It was a big black looking panther. No doubt about it.

  6. It’s not only Southern Ohio, folks. On Sunday, July 19th 2015 at approximately 2:00 a.m. I experienced the most horrifying experience of my life. The weather called for a 0% chance of rain for Saturday evening / Sunday so I was getting some painting and landscaping done outside at the Ranch. I often use the night to get things done as I try to spend time with my wife and young sons during the day and with so much to do I had started during the early evening this particular day. From nearly the time I began my work there were extremely loud cracking noises coming from the woods as our little yorky “Jack” ran back and forth at least 20 times in curiosity throughout the evening and returning with a wimper. The dog has always been somewhat of a wussy being my wife’s little “mamma’s boy” from before she and I had met and our relationship had never been too close. Although I was quite curious myself, I didn’t assume it would be anything I should be TOO concerned about even though I found the extent of these continuous large cracks to be very unusual. Being the state of Ohio, our 0% chance of rain turned into a drizzle between 12:00 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. in the morning as I just started to paint some 4×4 landscape timbers. I grabbed the can of paint and the pup and I took a break in the garage leaving the paint can’s lid outside. Without the weather cooperating and it being 2:00 a.m. on the nose, I decided to call it a day. I walked up to the area I was working in from out of the garage which was only about 50 feet away. The halogen work lights were aimed in a position to nearly blind me from where I stood. I bent down to pick up the lid of the paint can. At that very moment ,the loudest, freakiest,most horrifying woman screaming bloody murder from what seemed to be millimeters from my face.. At the time ,not knowing that it was a Panther, and even if I did know for that matter, I stood there shaking like I have never shook before and Jack next to me expressing the same reaction as myself. My mind was racing between running and staying still with the blinding glow of halogen lights in my face excluding vision as any help to my decision. A pattern of four screams curled my hair with a slight pause of dead silence before another four echoing like church bells banging on my ear drums. After what seemed to be days, I had finally built up the courage to pivot my feet and make a jolt for the garage into the house closing the door quickly behind me and hoping Jack was in there with me and wishing him the best of luck if he wasn’t because going back outside wasn’t on my agenda. He was.
    Two weeks had gone by and my cup was overflowing with work at my shop because I spent most of my time in the office, on my computer, trying to match those screams with something that lives in our region. It certainly was NOT a fox or a bobcat which seems to be the “go to” explanation when telling others about the experience. Anyone who has heard the mating call of a mountain lion knows there is absolutely no similarities between the two. Finally, after two weeks of becoming a firm believer in screaming sasquatches, I nailed it. The match was a video on you tube titled “The freakiest noise in the woods that woke me up”. I had never imagined mountain lions, cougars, panthers, whatever we prefer to call them making their presence 25 miles south of Cleveland Ohio. But the fact of the matter is they have. I have not only seen the these cats on a couple of occasions over the last few years, I have pictures , videos, and plenty of other solid evidence to prove I’m not confused on which cat I’m ACTUALLY seeing or hearing. I have spent my whole life outdoors from playing in the woods as a child, to camping, partying, riding dirt bikes, hunting ,fishing paint balling, and with all those nights I have spent at motocross tracks and National parks I’m pretty sure I know when something is out of the ordinary.I found it hard to tell others about this experience without words like “fox and “bobcat” being brought up. If I had heard a fox or a bobcat I certainly wouldn’t have wasted my time telling you or the many others over the past 3 years about it. Someone actually had the nerve say “racoon” one time when sharing the story as I wished for nothing more than that panther to suddenly explode out of nowhere and drag that moron into the woods for dinner.The animal recorded on that you tube video didn’t “kind of” sound like what I heard, it didn’t “resemble” what I heard, it was absolutely 100% identical to the screams that I will never forget. I’m greatful for this sight to share with people who had similar experiences. And people who know that cougars are without a doubt among us in southern and Northern Ohio.

  7. The past February my husband and I were visiting my sister in Ohio. The three of us were sitting near her sliding glass doors at her kitchen table which overlooks her back field. The field was covered in snow at that time and everything was white. While we were there drinking our morning coffee I saw a large black cat moving across her field along the edge of the woods. The cat was smaller than a mountain lion (I’m from California and have seen mountain lions hiking, etc.) and had a very long tail, probably the same length as its body. My husband, sister, and I watched it move across the field and I asked her what types of large cats they had in Ohio. She said she didn’t know and I left it at that. Later I remembered the sighting and was curious, so I searched it on the internet and came across this site. Had I known it was some controversial issue I would have taken photos! This sighting was in a rural area in Union County, Ohio, at around 9am in February 2018.

    • LHR, I am in rural eastern Union County, Ohio and saw exactly what you described roughly 5 years ago. I was driving down Moore Rd. when I saw a very large black cat moving along a tree line about 40 yards to my left. It was far bigger than any domestic cat or bobcat ( closer to the size of a black lab) and had a long black tail. Unfortunately I had passed by before I was able to realize what I had seen.

      If you don’t mind sharing… what part of the county were you in? Despite only having this one sighting I have heard multiple frightening “screams” while taking my dogs out late at night since then. Let’s just say that I no longer go out at night without a means of defense.

  8. This am around 10:00am I had just returned from town in Monroe County, Ohio and was turning my car around
    When I spotted a grayish light brown cat with a tail dragging the ground out in the end of the drive, it walked along the edge of driveway and then went into the woods. I would guess it was about 18 or 20 inches in height. I did a internet search of a mountain lion and it was identical to what I saw. Today is August 1, 2018

  9. What part of Monroe? My son-in–law saw one in Belmont County this morning August 2nd 2018

  10. My husband seen one this morning on august 2nd,2018 running across the baseball field in southern Belmont county behind our house

  11. My son and I camping on our family property in Erie County, Ohio spring of 2015….we heard the craziest screams at about 3am. From dead sleep to WIDE AWAKE in 2 seconds flat!!! 40 years in the woods from Lake Erie to The Great Smokies and boy howdy…..never heard anything like that. Until I heard a cougar “scream” on You Tube.
    Also, April 2018 on Rt 68 just north of Ripley, Ohio Brown County. I was stopped on the hill in construction traffic and happen to look west at an old stone wall hidden in the woods. If you know the Simon Kenton Highway you know the type of wall I’m talking about. I’m 6’6″ and those walls are hip high on me. I watched a big gold cat step…yes, step…not hop…over that wall. Folks, I know what I seen and I know what me and the boy heard. Cougar are here in Ohio.

  12. Sept.13, 2018 My husband and I are camping at Rocky Fork State Park. Last night after dark with no fire we heard a distressed coyote howl out a warning sound. About 5 minutes later my husband caught eyes at the wood line with a flash light. We watched as it didn’t care about is. Mountain lion or cougar for sure. Was 50 feet from us. Definitely a large cat. Fawn or light tan with long tail. As big as our German Shepherd. Short sleek fur rounded tipped ears. Had to get in RV then lost track of her trying to find sight again from looking out the window. Are in an isolated area with no one else and no fires near by.

  13. About three years ago I was driving with my husband in Vinton County down behind our house. As we were driving across an old railroad bed when I happen to look down the old bed and saw two young black cats playing. They immediately ran up a bank into the brush. I slammed on my brakes and about put my husband into the windshield. He started yelling at me and asked me what I was doing. I told him what I had saw. He told me that I was crazy. We went on down the road. This happened to be the spring of the year. All of a sudden I looked over and here came an adult black cat up from Raccoon Creek. I stopped the car and we watched the cat walk across the open field to the brush line. It did not run. It laid down in the brush line and watched us.You could see it because the foilage was not on yet. I rolled down the window and yelled, but it just laid there. I started blowing my horn and it finally got up and walked off. We aren’t the only ones that have seen these cat. They have been spotted several times by different people in our area.

  14. In August 2018 I was driving east on 70 around Buckeye Lake and I saw what I thought was a pit bull hunting around the ditch line, then I saw the really long tail. Has anyone else seen one in this area?

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