View Full Version : Where do I go to Photograph Wild Cats in N.America ?

12-27-2010, 06:07 AM
Here in Africa I can guarantee (really) everyone a good quality (close), photographable wild Leopard sighting in just a three day visit to the world famous Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

So where do I go in North America to get close up photographic sightings of Big Cats (Puma, Lynx, Bobcats) ?

Does anyone know of anywhere in US (or South America) where there are habituated big cats to photograph. I am not talking about trained, captive animals - but wild, free-ranging cats.

Surely someone has created such an eco-tourist feature in US ? And if not, Why Not ?

Any information or discussion gratefully received.

Jeff Parker
12-27-2010, 09:36 PM
Short answer: no.

North American wildcats are extremely shy. That's the only way they have managed to not be wiped out. There might be a some places with a bobcat that's not too shy. They are photographed fairly regularly at south Texas photo blinds, but it's not guaranteed.

Puma/mountain lions have been exterminated from most of their range. Here in Texas they have ZERO protection. Basically if one allows itself to be seen, it's shot. Even in places where they are protected you could be there for years and not see one.

Lynx are found in the most remote locations. They are seen in Denali National Park in Alaska, but it would be easier to photograph a ghost than a wild lynx in the lower 48.

12-28-2010, 01:41 AM
Thanks for the response Jeff.

That's a really grim picture you paint. Shame on Americans. Africa also has a history of hunting - but has managed to keep some areas where wildlife can be free of hunting pressure. That is where big cats can be habituated and become highly visible and approachable, even with small cubs.

Must be about time that someone started giving protection to America's cats so they do not have to be so fearful of hunters.

Roy Priest
12-28-2010, 03:22 AM
Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada has the highest concentration of Mountain Lions in North America. Having said that I have only ever seen 2 wild ones. They are still hard to find, the hunters go in the winter. Lynx are also in B.C. but then again are very hard to find.

12-28-2010, 03:43 AM
Good to hear there are plenty of pumas on Vancouver Is. But cannot your hunters give them a break and go somewhere else ? Is nowhere safe from hunting in N.America ? :(

Why not make Vancouver Is world renowned as the best place on the planet to come see WILD PUMAs ? How great would that be.

I visited the island many years ago and know that plenty of tourists go there. So how cool would it be to add Pumas (okay, Mountain Lions) to the list of things to see on the island ! :)

Jeff Parker
12-28-2010, 06:38 PM
Mountain lions are protected in California and sightings are on the rise. However, their home territories are huge and they are still shy. They are out there, but seeing one is special. A good photo in the wild is mostly luck.

12-29-2010, 02:32 AM
Thanks Jeff.

The range size is quite normal for a big cat. Leopards too have pretty large territories.

'Shyness' is a mix of innate behaviour and learned fear of predators (hunters). As a top predator a puma has little need to be innately fearful of anything much. So their apparent shyness is really just because people are out to kill them. Look at the wolves on Ellesmere Island in the Arctic - quite approachable because they seldom come across people and have no reason to fear them. Over time the leopards of Sabi Sands have learned that game vehicles and people are not threatening and so are quite happy to watch their young cubs frolic a few feet from a game vehicle full of visitors. That's the difference.

Grant Eldridge
06-01-2011, 09:17 AM
I think the natural behaviour of the mountain lions (cougars - not the one found in bars) on Vancouver Island is significantly different than the African big cats. Far more akin to the jaguars of South America. Combine that with the incredibly dense forest and vast areas and your chances of seeing one are very slim. I've spent a lot of years roaming the back country here and have never even caught a glimpse, although I bet I have walked past a fair number with no idea they were there. A friend of mine was a forester for 34 years and also never saw one. But they are there in significant numbers, there is a lot of prey and once in while one is sighted in town. Usually around schools.

North America's claim to fame are bears, definitely seen my fair share bears while out and about. The are deinitely more comfortable around humans than our cats.

Daniel Bailey
06-01-2011, 09:27 AM
Phil, You are very spoiled (good thing) when it comes to cat sightings. I've been ALL over the US and western Canada (including Vancouver Island on multiple occasions) and have YET to see a puma or lynx. I've only had a fleeting glimpse of a bobcat and I practically live in the woods. Its is definitely frustrating... I thought I was in heaven when I visited South Africa!

06-05-2011, 10:33 AM

Thanks for your coments.

I have to say that I find them really depressing though. Americans must really start work on your big cats. They should all be relatively easy to see. Everyone just has to stop shooting everything that moves.

Set aside some parks where bigs cats can live without fear and they will reward everyone with great views.

06-06-2011, 03:42 AM

I hear what you say.

But wilderness areas in USA are no bigger than those in Africa. Also the jaguar is now becoming much more viewable than ever before. Even forests have clearings and river areas where cats should be visible.

As top predators big cats should have nothing to fear. So I still maintain that it is the constant persecution of these animals that is making them keep hidden.

Leopards that know man is not going to harm them will allow views down to a few feet - will show off cubs and even mate in the open.

People just need to stop hunting, trapping, poisoining ....... America's big cats.

A great opportunity is being missed.

Grant Eldridge
06-06-2011, 11:16 AM
Hi Phil,

Found this bit of information on for Vancouver Island (http://www.geog.uvic.ca/viwilds/iw-cougar.html). Looks like there is a fairly healthy population here, could be the areas I visit are just not where it likes to hang out. By the sounds of things though hunting and habitat loss are definitely factors. I really do not know what the fascination is with shooting things in North America.


06-07-2011, 03:03 AM

Thanks for the link. At least BC seems to have quite a few pumas.

But think what a fantastic ecotourist asset some habituated pumas would be !