I am sincerely amazed at the number of emails I continue to receive about mountain lion or cougar sightings in New Jersey.
This all started in the spring with the report by a woman who swears she and her dog were approached by a cougar in Galloway Township.
That story prompted others to reach out to me about their sightings.
That story prompted a number of folks to write about their encounters.
Well, that latest story has exploded, going viral and being shared all across the state.
For the last few days, my email account has been continuously pinging from people sharing information about their sightings. Needless to say, I'm overwhelmed by the number of people in our state who claim that they have seen a cougar or mountain lion. (I don't know if it's right, but for me the two terms are interchangeable.)
I have no agenda in this. I would just like to share the information that people are sharing with me. (I've chosen to protect the identities of those who've shared their stories with me.)
So, while the state of New Jersey says "there are no mountain lions in New Jersey," there are a lot of people who would beg to differ. (Or a lot of people who are very good at creative writing and fooling me.)
I was going to attempt to somehow categorize these sightings, but I find that task overwhelming. I will say I've received reports from all around the state — but several of the reports seem to be in the same area: West Milford in the northern part of the state.
So, thanks to all who reached out, and to all who are as fascinated about this subject as I am. On we go with just some of the reports I've received in the last few days:
I've been reading your stories about mountain lion sightings, I too have seen a mountain lion; this was during the early spring or late winter of 2021. I was on my deck at around 10 in the morning. My house, which is located in Hewitt, NJ (West Milford township), faces the woods, which is actually the edge of Wawayanda State Park. The mountain lion was about 50 yards to the left of my house and was walking up the side of the mountain. At first, I wasn't sure what I was seeing since I never expected to see a mountain lion, as we mostly see turkeys and other birds behind our house, or an occasional bear, deer, or fox. It definitely wasn't a bobcat or a coyote, as I do know what they look like. It also looked to be at least 4-5 feet in length, not counting its long, thick tail. I was excited for my husband to see it too, so I kept calling him and going to the dining room so he could hear me, as he was downstairs, but unfortunately by then, the mountain lion was no longer in my sight.
I posted my sighting on a neighborhood social media site, and of course, many did not believe me and said they don't exist here in NJ; however, a number of people also chimed in that they have seen one here or there in different locations not far from me. My husband also sighted one while driving to go hunting many years ago in Wawayanda State Park. The mountain lion walked right across the street in front of his car while he was driving through the park.
In the '70s, Jungle Habitat was located here in West Milford. People say that when they closed it down some of the animals were released into the woods around here. Whether that's true or not, I don't know, but I do know that there are mountain lions - or at least one lion - in the area.
I live and work in Wayne, about 8 to 10 years ago a woman who started her shift at about 5 am said she saw a mountain lion walking through our property one morning. I didn’t believe her until the security department showed me the security camera footage and there it was about a 30 or 40-pound mountain lion walking passed the security lights.
I was sitting on my front porch and I saw a very large animal at first I thought big fox. As it was running I noticed that it was way too large and had a large tail. The coloring was that of a deer but it was too strangely shaped to be a deer conclusion definitely a mountain lion. I have seen it more than once. I heard a lot of animal screaming and it seemed to be getting closer to my property. The screaming stopped and a few minutes later I spotted it in my backyard. It was at the edge of the woods and it looked like it was just after a kill. It was bloody and the hair was a mess around its head. Then it turned and went back into the woods. I live in Holland Township NJ.
About 15 years ago we were on our motorcycles riding around Delaware NJ by the Gap we went on a gravel road came to a bridge we couldn't cross turned around driving real slow cause we all had Harleys I kept like 10 bike lengths between us because of the dust kicking up and right in front of me crossed a mountain lion no more than 10 feet away from me no way I was mistaken. They are here!
l just dug out my NJ Rare Wildlife Report Form of September 14, 2013.
l was taking a favorite off and on-road bike ride that l call the Harrisville/Oswego Loop, which starts on Rt 679. My sighting was on the sand Old Martha Rd beyond Martha Furnace Rd (which is also the BatonaTrail). l went around a tight right bend and, 100 feet up, walking the same way was a cougar. We both stopped. lt calmly looked back then almost bent its body in half, using only its front legs to face me. Our eyes locked and we were both motionless. l thought "oh shit" and figured l could try to use my bicycle for protection and dismounted. It then, whew, calmly walked into the brush towards the Oswego River.
l then got to thinking about a description, the color is rather unique. For the smooth consistently colored short hair l came up with a greyish tint to a deers summer color. Luckily it looked healthy and well-fed. On the return paved portion of my ride, l stopped to share my story with my friends at Mick's Canoes.
One said his father swore he had seen one, and their guess was it was an escapee from Great Adventure. One can easily imagine that they might decide to not report the loss. l decided to keep it quiet to avoid a frenzy of seekers, especially since there is a lot of private property further back, the Haines and Coons cranberry families. l never heard from the State. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but l have since never taken that ride.
I just read your article about mountain lions in NJ. Yes, they have been here for years. About 10 years ago I saw one crossing a narrow, rural road in Chester Township, NJ. I only saw the back half of the animal which was muscular, tan colored with a long tail that curled at the end. About 4 years ago I saw the whole mountain lion. It was crossing Clove Rd. in Montague, Sussex County, east from the swampy area of High Point Golf Club west down behind the Vet's office on Millville Rd. I went home to look it up to ensure I was correct - Mountain Lion.
Other people say they have seen these beautiful cats and have also caught them, in the past, on camera in the woods.
Fish and Game has to acknowledge their existence so the public is aware. I don't walk my dog on Old Mine Rd any longer because of the large number of bears, coyotes, and concern about mountain lions.
One other gentleman and I almost 10 years ago saw a mountain lion on our worksite in Clinton NJ. It was late October and leaves were mostly down on our 500+ acre site. In the spray field which is leased to a local farmer, I was driving the roadway down to another building on our site and saw slinking quite quickly a large deer-colored cat with a body close to 4 ft long and a tail about the same length. I know bobcats and it definitely wasn’t one especially having a 3+ foot tail that was quite thick.
I mentioned it to several coworkers and nobody believed me! Then, a gentleman who worked in our IT department said, “I believe you. I saw it too while jogging at lunchtime.” At least someone else believed me.
My cousin and her boyfriend, who own 40 acres in Mansfield Twp NJ saw one on their property as well. They definitely are here! I don’t doubt that woman’s experience in South Jersey one little bit! Just a matter of time until fish and game acknowledge it. With all the deer, geese, and other prey everywhere, why wouldn’t they be here!!!!
Hi Joe, no one believed me but back in about 1986 I was. riding my dirt bike up a trail right off Rt. 23 in West Milford NJ about 50 yards from the highway a huge cat ran across the trail in front of me maybe 25 feet from my front tire. I was amazed I told everyone I knew and it was like I was crazy or a liar. But I know what I saw. And yes I believe these other stories. It was an event I can remember like it was yesterday.
Read your article about mountain lions in NJ. I have seen a lion twice in Sussex County. I was driving on a dark and stormy night about 9 years ago on Rt-515 just off of Rt-23. It came out of the woods and stopped in the middle of the road right in front of me in the headlights. I had to slam on the brakes so as not to hit it. It had a small animal hanging from its mouth. Turned its head and looked right at me for several seconds. There was no question as to what it was, with its coloring and long tail. Then it continued crossing the road and into the woods. My girlfriend remarked, “Wow, that was a lion”.
About 16 years ago I saw one plodding along Canal Road in Vernon, in broad daylight while I was looking out my kitchen sink window. Again, there was no doubt as to what it was. Over the years I have heard stories of other encounters. They are definitely here.
Lions in NJ......my son and myself were on a hunt in a ground blind on a friend's farm in Liberty Corner, NJ Somerset Co...February 19, 1996....roughly around 4:00 pm in the afternoon I thought a deer had entered the pine forest we were adjacent to....we were actually hunting bushy tails with flintlock smoothbores as deer season was closed. The next thing we see is this cat. In comparison to our GSD, I estimated it to be around 70lbs. ....it walked right out downwind of us and broadside to both of us at 25 yards or so. No doubt we were lookin' at a Mt. Lion...either a young one or a female I figured.....went home, called NJF&G at the time, and reported it..... asked if they were interested in setting a culvert-type trap to capture it....they seemed pretty disinterested at the time, said it wasn't feasible as we were in a residential type area..... the day after with fresh snow on the ground we returned to find where it had stalked and killed a wild turkey....it was obvious to us with the winged slash marks still in the snow and where it walked downhill with the turkey in its mouth pushing the snow to the sides of it making a smooth pathway.....it was something my son and I will never forget.
I used to live on Albrecht Lane in East Brunswick. It’s a one-lane road off of Riva Avenue near Farrington Lake. It was about 6 or 7 years ago. I was walking past my double kitchen windows and glanced outside. We had a tree that was partially blown over in a Nor’easter creating a lifted-up mound of earth. Standing in profile on top of the mound was a mountain lion. I could not believe my eyes! But that was definitely what it was. It was ENORMOUS! It was tan and the most amazing part of this animal was its tail. It looked so powerful! And was almost as long as its body! I told some people but I’m not sure anyone believed me. The animal just stood there for a few minutes and then walked off towards the lake.
About 10 years ago I used to frequent west Milford NJ. One late afternoon on my way back home I, unfortunately, saw one dead in the middle of 287 on the southbound lane approximately around the exits near Delaware water gap (between 53 and 36) I was in the lane closest to it, was driving slow enough past it and got a clear long look at it, it was clearly a giant beige cat with a long tail. The most beautiful tragedy I've ever seen. My dad also has a friend that lives in North Jersey I believe in alpha somewhere by the NY border in a more rural area and he has seen them in his yard and captured them on his trail camera. It doesn't make sense to me that they wouldn't be in those areas considering anything prevents them from crossing state lines especially since they can swim and the Delaware river is often shallow enough to walk across in a lot of spots. A person I lost touch with is also convinced they are around the northwest part of Somerset county he was hunting somewhere near Raritan valley community college and photographed a giant paw print in the snow that was clearly a cougar print. I'm completely convinced fish and game are well aware they are still here and said they are extinct to calm the public outcries.
My wife came home a couple of years ago and told me she saw two cougars crossing Range Road, a joint jurisdiction road between Fort Dix and Browns Mills, NJ, I told her they must have been something else. After reading your article I'm not so sure, maybe she really did see them.
I live in Cumberland in Maurice River township. One year just a few years ago I was driving down the road and a good half mile up the road from me after coming around the S bends on Hesstown Road. There was a long tall cat with a long tail. from afar it looked like silk black fur. I slowed down and when slowed down it took off really fast into the woods. To me, it was not a dog and then carry itself like a dog. When I got up to where I think it was it was gone and to me, if it was a bear well bears don't have tails and two to me a bear would kind of struggle to get into the woods and lose stamina after a certain point maybe this thing it ran it took off and didn't look back.
In the summer of 2002, I was biking south on the D&R canal path near Millstone NJ. My 11-year-old son was in front of me about 50 feet. A pretty severe thunderstorm had just ended so for the afternoon it was quite dark. Suddenly my son stopped on the trail due to a large cat on the trail. It was light brown with a long tail. It was looking away from us attempting to catch a number of small deer that [were] on the riverbank. It turned and saw us. It scowled and flipped its long just before it leaped down the bank towards the fawns.
Quite unnerving. We contacted the Somerset County Park department who assured us that there are no mountain lions in their parks. I guess they weren’t willing to admit it but my son and I knew what we saw.
I was driving on the parkway in Toms River back in the late winter and I swear I saw a dead mountain lion in the median. I called it in and was told there are no mountain lions in NJ. They told me they would investigate and let me know, but I never received a callback. What drew me to it was the seeming paws. We see dead deer all of the time, but deer do not have big paws as this thing did. I wish I had turned around and taken photos but, where it was located, it would have taken me too long.
Very interesting piece. I thought I was nuts for thinking it was a mountain lion, but now not so much.
Yes, we DO have them in NJ, regardless of whether the state denies it or not. A number of years ago, a friend and I were driving around Walpack, which is part of The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. We are both members of the Walpack Historical Society. There was an animal that ran very quickly across the road and we both said that it looked like a mountain lion. Park rangers alerted the historical society to inform members that these big cats have been spotted in the area.
A work colleague of mine lives in Layton, a town next to Walpack in Sussex County.
I’m a believer. Pittstown resident scared to death last summer outside my house when I went to go feed my donkeys. Pitch-black out and all I could hear was a long slow deep growling that sounded like nothing I’d ever heard except once before 3 years ago. The same spot, just trying to get to my donkeys late at night.
Truly terrifying encounter even compared to a bear. I feel vindicated. Of course, everyone thinks I’m crazy because they don’t want to believe it. Because you will never go out of your house at night. I do have footprint pics in snow from Califon definitely not your usual coyote.
I had a mountain lion bounding across Weldon Road Jefferson Township Morris County about 75 yards in front of me. Another sighting was at Berkshire Valley Road by my neighbor. These areas are heavily wooded reserves owned by Morris County and the State of New Jersey. This occurred in the spring of 2017. I have seen these magnificent creatures in Wyoming and Montana many times on different trips to friends' large and remote ranches.
I also spotted a mountain lion on Almonesson Rd Deptford NJ about 1 am. half a mile before you reach the Deptford Mall. I was leaving Westville towards the mall. I had seen a police officer in the parking lot at the mall and told him what I saw. I was told to call animal control. He suggested I didn't see a lion etc. I had made calls to many different agencies and either I was told I was wrong or no one would return my calls. I KNOW WHAT I SAW and to this day every time I bring up this in conversation nobody believes me.
(DS says her sighting was from earlier this summer.)
Some years ago we were on our way home from my sister-in-law’s house burning. At the time I think my daughter was about five. She’s 18 now. We were traveling south on 23 right by Canistear road in West Milford. It was about 12:30 at night. I had my head tilted to the side sitting in the backseat with my daughter and I saw a very large cat jump clear across Route 23. Another sighting was on Storms Ave in Haskell NJ. Two years ago I was fishing the Wanaque reservoir and came across tracks I had never seen before. It was when the reservoir was really low. Huge tracks. I knew It wasn’t a bear or wolf. Definitely, a mountain lion after I googled the print.
Some years ago there was a really bad coyote problem at the Wawayanda State Park. It was a rumor that State Fish and game stocked mountain lions to take care of it, to this day they deny it but I don’t doubt they did.
I saw a Mountain Lion in the fall of 2017 in Bedminster/Far Hills NJ while driving south on Rt 206/Lamington Rd. It was heading northeast toward Peapack, NJ. It was about 4 feet tall and just walked slowly crossing the highway.
Many years ago - back in late 2012 I was preparing a yard sale with my youngest daughter (she was 12 at the time) on our driveway in Ringwood, NJ. It was early morning so it was pretty quiet. I lived on a street with houses spaced widely - and a soccer field across the street which was next to a wooded space, a creek, and a pond.
We had just finished setting up the stuff on the driveway and were just sitting enjoying the silence when we both spotted what looked like a giant cat across the street on the edge of the field near the tree line. I knew it wasn't a dog - and it wasn't a bobcat. It was at least four feet long and had a tail just as long. From a distance, it had the walk of a cat - and the coloring of a mountain lion. It walked into the tree line and disappeared.
In my moment of "fear" - I called the non-emergent police number They sent an officer out and we told him what we had seen. Inasmuch as he didn't see it himself - he could not (would not) confirm what we had seen. However, he did say (off the record) that he believed us - he was a hunter and had seen evidence of them in and around our area of the state.
I had people bash us for telling our story - but we've never wavered. It WAS a mountain lion.
I am so happy to read your article I have been telling people for years my friend and I saw a cougar and Greystone Park in Morris County I believe it was 2013 it was the end of September or early October we were coming from fishing and as we were riding I saw it stalking a bunch of deer. I then said to my friend, oh wow he said what did you see I said no you tell me, he then described that he saw a big brown animal with a little face and a big tail in a different color brown than the deer, I then told him I saw it as well and it was a cougar he thought I was crazy for saying that and then I showed him an article where someone had just seen it at Burnham Park in Morristown a week or so before that was only a few miles away.
Hey Joe. They are here. Saw one in Warren County in 2007 & 2008 while camping. Saw one in my backyard in Mercer County in 2018. Saw them all at dusk. Just like New Jersey doesn't have any rattlesnakes.