BANGOR (AP) – A sample of fur taken by a man who reported seeing a mountain lion in his back yard actually came from a fox, according to DNA tests.

Kelvin Higgins of Oakland last month reported seeing a “big cat” in April and provided a sample of fur that the animal shed while grooming itself on a rock.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife sent the fur sample to a federal laboratory in Montana, which delivered the results this week.

“It’s just your standard, red-colored fox,” said Keel Kemper, the wildlife biologist who handled the sample.

Higgins, however, was adamant that it was a mountain lion he spotted – regardless of what the test showed. If a fox had been in his yard, it ended up in the mountain lion’s belly, he said.

“There was no possible way of mistaking it for a fox,” Higgins said. “There was no doubt in my mind that it was a cat, and a good-sized one at that.”

There is an ongoing debate about whether Maine is still home to any mountain lions, also known as cougars, pumas or catamounts. The big cats, which can weigh up to 200 pounds, disappeared from the state for the most part in the 1800s. The last documented mountain lion spotted in the wild in Maine was killed in 1938.

But there have been numerous reports of possible sightings in recent years. Many people believe that a remnant wild population of cougars lives in Maine’s forests or that they are beginning to repopulate the state.

Kemper repeated his department’s official position that there are no viable populations of wild mountain lions in Maine. An occasional transient may pass through Maine, while other cougar sightings may be captive cats that were illegally released by their former owners.

If there were wild cougars in Maine, dead cougars would also turn up from time to time, Kemper said.

“My personal feeling is I am skeptical but open-minded,” he said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.