(WHNT) — Pumas, panthers, and… catamounts? No matter what you call a mountain lion, they’ve been spotted here in Alabama — just not as often as you might believe.

According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADNCR), most cougar sightings in Alabama can be attributed to “misidentifications” of dogs, cats, coyotes, and bobcats. Some of those sightings, while real, could even be cougars that have escaped captivity.

State officials say there is no self-sustaining wild population of mountain lions in Alabama.

Cougars are most common in the western United States with the populations closest to Alabama in West Texas and Florida, where they are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), the last confirmed cougar sighting in Alabama was recorded in 1956 in Tuscaloosa County. Since then, wildlife officials have not confirmed a sighting of the creature in the Yellowhammer State.

If you believe you’ve encountered a cougar in the wild, ACES offered tips to stay safe and identify it from afar:

  • Identify anything else near the cougar to get an accurate assessment of its size. The average cougar stands at two feet tall or comes to the mid-thigh on an average adult man.
  • Check out the length of the tail – mountain lions have long thick tails that make them distinct from coyotes and bobcats.
  • Adult cougars are not black. They are sandy or grayish brown, so if you believe you’ve spotted a black cougar, you’re wrong!
  • If you believe you’ve seen a cougar, do not get close! Cougars are potentially dangerous animals, and should be reported to local wildlife or law enforcement officials.

Learn more about mountain lions and their place in Alabama here.