What do you see?
A game trail cam pointing into the woods behind a home near Hazel Green High School in Madison County captured the image of a cat earlier this month.
The question is: What species is it?
And lots of folks on social media are weighing-in with their thoughts. Some believe it’s a mountain lion.
WAAY 31 took the photo to state wildlife biologists to get their expert opinions Friday.
Biologists believe the grainy image is 100 percent that of a bobcat, a common wild cat found throughout Alabama.
Bobcats are often mistaken for cougars, also called pumas and mountain lions, but there has not been a verified, reliable sighting of a cougar in Alabama in more than 70 years.
But that hasn’t stopped the legend of the Alabama cougar from staying alive and well.
“We get a lot of questions every week about big cats in Alabama," Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division Conservation Outreach Coordinator Marianne Hudson told WAAY 31 Friday.
Emails and calls come into the state’s wildlife office from people across Alabama who swear they captured proof of a cougar in the wild.
“People are quite often used to seeing things that are certain size in a certain shape from a certain distance which gives them a perspective and we’re not perspective is skewed you can easily give an illusion that the animals larger or smaller than other than it actually is," Hudson said.
Cougars once roamed across most of the Western Hemisphere, but the last cougar thought to be in Alabama was killed in 1956 in Tuscaloosa County, according to officials.
The big cat is presumed to be extinct east of the Mississippi River, except for a small, protected population in extreme southwestern Florida.
“We invite people to send us their pictures of tracks for even droppings from these animals," Hudson said.
Feral cats are also behind most cases of mistaken identity, they look similar in some lighting situations and when it's hard to compare the size with the surrounding objects.
An important note here: it’s illegal to privately own a cougar as a pet in Alabama, other big cats like tigers and African lions are legal and people are not required to register those with the state.
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