KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- At least nine cougar sightings have been confirmed. TWRA said they will be monitoring the natural expansion of the cougar.
All of the confirmed sightings listed are in Middle or West Tennessee. There are several possible reports in East Tennessee, but none confirmed by the TWRA.
Zoo Knoxville Director of Animal Care Phil Colclough said it could be several years before more cougars are in our area.
"Obviously they are coming this way there's a few scattered records here and there and I think they will be here at some point, coming down from the north. We obviously have a lot of deer in this area so the prey is here for them to have," said Colclough.
According to TWRA the cougar is native to Tennessee, but was extirpated because of hunting and habitat loss.
Colclough said the return of the cougars might be good for the environment.
"They could control the deer population. It would be huge, think about all the car accidents and the problems deer cause because of their over population," said Colclough.
According to TWRA cougars, once they establish a home range can be up to 150 miles. They can travel up to 600 miles or more to find that home range.
It is also illegal to hunt and kill cougars. The TWRA on their website state, "Tennessee law protects all animals for which no hunting season is proclaimed, the cougar is protected in Tennessee. It is illegal to kill a cougar in Tennessee except in the case of imminent threat of life and injury. Also, if a landowner is experiencing property damage made by wildlife, that landowner has the right to protect his/her property."
More information can be found https://www.tn.gov/twra/article/cougars-in-tennessee#sthash.UfFsHuFB.dpuf
A map of confirmed Cougar sightings can be found here. http://twra.maps.arcgis.com/apps/StoryMapBasic/index.html?appid=800fe4e965594896ad6200e5ed1ccbab