Wildlife biologists say Louisiana's first verified cougar sighting in five years is a trail camera photo taken last month.
There's no way to tell whether the animal photographed in northeast Louisiana is a wild animal or an escaped illegal pet, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said in a news release Tuesday.
The cougar photographed Nov. 23 is unlikely to stay in one area longer than it would take to eat a kill, and may be photographed by other trail cameras set up at deer feeders, said Maria Davidson, the department's large carnivore program manager.
She said Louisiana's last documented cougar sighting was a trail camera photograph in Vernon Parish in August 2011.
Because cougar tracks, feces, road kill and cached deer kills are so rare in Louisiana, the department has concluded that Louisiana does not have an established, breeding population of cougars.
Biologists say sightings over the last 14 years are probably animals moving from existing populations in Texas and other states. Young males are known to travel hundreds of miles in a search of their own territories.
Federal and state laws forbid killing cougars, and it's illegal in Louisiana to own them as pets.