In “All My Exes Live in Texas,” George Strait sung of his numerous ex-wives causing him to leave his home state. The last line in the song has him saying that it’s been rumored that he died, but he’s actually living, and living well, in Tennessee. The mountain lion recently spotted on a trail camera isn’t from Texas, but it proves that the big cats are once again alive and well in Tennessee after years of being extirpated from the state.

Rumors have abounded for years of cougar sightings, with each observer being laughed to scorn for their unbelievable tales of seeing the cats when afield for deer, quail, or other game. Austin Burton’s sighting was unique in that it came on his trail camera, offering (seemingly) evidence to those who say mountain lions no longer roam Middle Tennessee.

Burton’s camera snapped the photo on the evening of Sept. 20, 2015, although the date was incorrectly stamped “Sept. 19” on the image. The mountain lion was seen visiting a whitetail scrape and smelling the overhanging branches.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is working to confirm the video but was unable to find tracks, hair, or any other physical evidence at the camera site.

Burton told Nashville’s Fox 17 he had hunted his whole life without seeing such a thing. He gave his dad “a hard time for always having a pistol on him,” but said he would be carrying from now on after seeing a fellow predator was in the same woods he hunted.

Still, Tennesseans shouldn’t be too excited or upset by the sighting. The TWRA reminded residents that one sighting, even a believable one like this, does not mean a hunting season is in the foreseeable future.

“TWRA biologists assure Tennesseans that in the event of a confirmation of one animal it does not mean there is an established population,” a statement from the agency read. “A cougar sighting could easily be attributed to a transient young male or an illegal release of a captive animal.

“Like all wildlife species in Tennessee, cougars are classified as a protected species which cannot be hunted or killed until a hunting or trapping season is established by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission, the governing body of the TWRA.”



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