Though mountain lions once roamed the hills and forests of Oklahoma, persecution at the hands of humans drove them locally extinct. If we support open space conservation and preserve corridors connecting potential habitat, we could reverse this situation and bring mountain lions back home to Oklahoma.
Although mountain lions may be physically capable of living in an area, human activities and attitudes could keep them from reestablishing a population there.
Fragmentation, sport hunting practices, and intolerant communities can wipe out mountain lions from any area.
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Before European settlement, mountain lions roamed throughout Oklahoma and beyond. Perceived conflict with livestock, heavy hunting pressure, conversion of wildlands to agriculture and other forms of habitat loss drove Oklahoma's mountain lions to local extinction.
There hasn't been much, if any, research specifically addressing potential habitat for mountain lions in the state, but there has been work looking at the importance of potential dispersal corridors across the U.S. A study by LaRue (2007) estimates that there are 9,243 square kilometers of potential mountain lion habitat in Oklahoma. This same study estimates that there are 128,608 square kilometers of highly suitable habitat across the Midwest. A viable population in Oklahoma would help provide potential dispersing individuals to help repopulate neighboring states across the Midwest and on to the East Coast.
Establishing mountain lion-friendly legislation and management practices will likely need to play a role in allowing this top carnivore to return to the great state of Oklahoma. Check out our Action Tab to see what you can do to help!