In the monthly outdoor magazine the Northwoods Sporting Journal a few months ago, personal reports of cougar or mountain lion sightings in Maine were solicited. As a result more than 30 readers shared their cougar-sighting experiences! Some of these accounts, all of which appear to have a common ring of authenticity and credibility, will be published in the October issue of the Sporting Journal. (www.sportingjournal com).

We invite you and Maine’s knowledgeable and highly professional state and federal wildlife biologists to weigh this surprising response in context of this official statement from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. (MDIF&W). “There are no known cougar populations in Maine at this time.”

The question arises: What is meant exactly by the term “no known cougar populations”? Is it meant to be absolute, or is it a qualified hedge meant to leave an opening? We must assume, based on these biologists’ grudging admission that “there may be dispersing cougars from bordering states or provinces just passing through,” that there is no cougar reproduction taking place in Maine.

Of the 30 personal sighting accounts, only one reported seeing a large cat and an apparent yearling cougar.

Here is a sample from these “civilian reports.”

Collette Simmons writes, “I just read your article on mountain lions in Maine. I saw a black one in Charleston last year in a corn field. I was riding a bike with our neighbor when I spotted the large cat sunning itself in the morning sun. I called to my friend to come back as she had already rode past the cat. The cat stared right back at us for a few minutes and tried to make itself sick into the earth to cover itself. The cat was 50 yards from us. It was in a sitting position when first spotted and then walked 2 yards to the woods. . The tail was as long as it’s body. Once in a life time experience.”

Chris Boone, a retired biologist with California Fish and Game and a longtime Maine deer hunter, was driving slow on the Pleasant Lake Rd (near West Grand Lake) last summer. In a ditch at about 15 feet was a black mountain lion with a long tail. It bounded off. Boone says that he and his deer-hunting buddy have seen over the years a couple of large (black) cats that he knows were lions. Boone worked with mountain lion projects for Fish and Game in California.

Fred Olson, from Greenbush, saw a mountain lion on East Ridge Rd about 2 p.m. on a bright, sunny day last fall. He recalls that the cat had a long tail and was tawny colored.

New Hampshire maintains a map that keeps track of cougar sighting locations in the Granite State. Maine wildlife officials, insofar as we know, do not maintain a map or a database of cougar sightings.

If you’d like to analyze the sighting locations for common denominators, here is a list of most of the towns where cougars were seen in the past five years: Sherman, Greenbush, Topsfield, Portage, Grand Lake Stream, North Vassalboro, Baileyville, Eastport, Charleston, Augusta, Penobscot, Rome, Oakland, Belgrade, Oquossoc, Litchfield, Eastbrook, Rumford, Canaan, Anson, Shirley Bog, Ellsworth, Bar Harbor, and Deer Isle.

The doubters, biologists included, raise good questions. If these big cats are that plentiful how come one has never been trapped or hit by a car? One explanation may be that, according to those who have seen them, these cats are very fast, very elusive and very agile with lightning reflexes.

Of course, the issue cannot be put to rest as long as the professionals (science) remain skeptical. Common sense suggests, though, that 30 Mainers are not imagining things or hallucinating. The popular suspicion, that biologists are covering up or avoiding a Federal listing, seems to have no basis in fact.

At this level of sightings, the passing of time may help us resolve the inconsistencies surrounding this elusive wild cat. Meanwhile, it is exciting to just know that these impressive felines are around, and whether you are driving a logging road or just a back highway with a load of groceries, one could show itself when you least expect it.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.net. 

 

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