Proof of big cat not found

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After a check of woods around Sidney, a state biologist ruled as inconclusive whether or not that really was a mountain lion shown in a grainy color photo last week.

“Not enough evidence to support a mountain lion, not enough to say it’s a bobcat,” said Inland Fisheries & Wildlife spokesman Mark Latti.

The photo had been taken by a homeowner, who was outside grilling when he spotted the tawny cat at a distance of 250 feet. A biologist later searching their backyard didn’t find tracks, scat or hair, Latti said.

The homeowner, who wants to remain anonymous, never got a good look at the tail, which could have helped in identifying the animal. Mountain lions have a long tail, bobcats a tuft.

“Photo was of so-so quality, so that was inconclusive as well,” Latti added. However, Latti had said earlier he didn’t believe the image had been manipulated or the cat’s image cropped and pasted into the scene of rocks and trees.

The state hasn’t had a wild mountain lion population since the late 1800s, according to Latti.

Six to 12 sightings come in each year, but few offer concrete information to follow up on.

John Lutz, director of the Eastern Puma Research Network, insists they’re here.

Since 1983, he said he’s collected 35 sightings of the animals – known as mountain lions, pumas or cougars – from Maine.

“If they had a cougar walk on up to the doorstep and say, ‘I’m here’ they would still say it was inconclusive,” Lutz said Monday by phone from West Virginia. “It’s a classic picture of a nice, looks-like-he’s-just-eaten, cougar.”

It looks like it’s recently been in the water, he added.

“(Wildlife officials) don’t want to admit to the fact they’ve got cougars,” Lutz said. “The state does not have the funds to be able to control cougars or put them in a specific location.”

Latti said there’s no government conspiracy. The animals are already on the federal endangered species list.

“We have nothing to gain by denying there are mountain lion in Maine,” he said.

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