Very few creatures in North America have as many names as the Mountain Lion. Catamount, Puma, Cougar, American Lion, Panther, Mountain Ghost, Painter, Red Tiger, Felis Concolor, Deer Tiger, Painted Cat to name a few and in the 19th century here in Maine they were known as the dreaded “Indian Devil.” In Central and South America, they are known as Panthers and Jaguar. In the 17 and 1800’s they were considered man-killers and a serious threat to livestock and thus hunted and trapped into oblivion. Currently, mountain lion can be found in 12 western states, Canada and if hunted at all, it is done so in highly regulated hunts to ensure a breeding population. Unfortunately, the population in southern Florida can be counted on one hand. So, do we have them in Maine?

What follows appeared in the August 2, 1957, edition of the Rangeley Highlander and shares what appears to be a fairly credible account given the experience and Cornell supplied wildlife education of at least one of the individuals.

(All text reprinted just as it appeared in 1957. Bill’s commentary noted in italics)

Sensationalized press coverage and demonizing depictions like this played a significant role in the extirpation of the mountain lion in the eastern U.S.

Mountain Lion Seen on Rte. 17

The last mountain lion killed in New England “was shot in the Magalloway area in 1929”, but they are again on the increases due to the large deer herds.

Phillips Woman Popular Award Winner Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Long, the First Prize Winner at Art Show and directors of Camp Symana, tutoring camp established this year on Dodge Pond, saw a mountain lion last week on Rt. 17. Driving south, about a mile north of the Height of Land at 7 p.m. in good daylight, the Longs saw the animal cross the road approximately fifty yards ahead of their car. They were driving down to the Height of Land to see the sunset when the mountain lion or panther as it is sometimes called, burst out of the bushes on the lower side of the road and walked at a fast pace across the road. Mrs. Long describes the animal as having a long tail that drags down and curls up at the end. The paws were large, and the fur was reddish brown. The head was “pug” a real cat head. It was walking in a fast “cat pace,” and was about the size of a Collie dog except it was lower. Mrs. Long said that it was the gait that made her think of a, cat first. Her first words were “it’s a tiger!” Then Mr. Long said “‘No, it’s a mountain lion.” The big cat crossed the road without turning its head either way and leaped across the ditch into the bushes on the upper side of the road. The Longs could scarcely believe their eyes and came home and told their son about it. The son, Mr. Ralph Long Jr., who teaches in the Duxbury, Mass. High School is a graduate from Cornell University in Wildlife and Conservation and has made field trips to Oregon and Old Mexico for Cornell. Together, they looked the animal up in The Field Guide to Mammals by Burt and the picture of a Mountain lion was exactly like the one they saw. Mr. Long Sr. who was born Maine and is very familiar with the woods, is positive he and Mrs. Long saw a Mountain Lion.

(A noted retired University of Maine wildlife professor has serious doubts that Maine has ever had a breeding Mountain Lion population. Along with the wolf, they are officially deemed “extirpated” here in Maine by the Maine Inland Fish and Wildlife Department. In 1938 a Quebec man trapped the last one on record in Maine. New Hampshire’s last documented case was shot in the White Mountains in 1885. The most recent and best-documented case in New England is known as the “Connecticut Mountain Lion.” The young adult male was killed by an SUV on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in Milford, Connecticut on June 11, 2011. Was it an escaped pet or perhaps set free by an irresponsible owner after becoming less cute and unmanageable. Believe it or not, cubs are available on the internet for as little as $1500, which seems ludicrous to me.

A local friend of mine who was an officer in the Maine Trappers Association and has hunted mountain lions in the Rockies and western Canada extensively once told me that he most definitely saw a panther near Mt. Blue in Weld. This man is no B.S. artist. He reluctantly once shared that in the 90’s he was guiding a sport on a bobcat hunt with his trained hounds. The day was over, and they were driving out on a plowed logging road when the big cat crossed in front of the truck. The guide begged the sport to let him put a couple fresh dogs on the track so he could tree it and get a photo, but the sport refused despite pleading offers of no pay for the successful day as well as a future free hunt. The sport was bushed from a long day on snowshoes chasing the hounds. He had his Bobcat, was hungry and wanted to get home. So much for what could have been a considerably credible documentation. To this day the guide swears that what he saw was a cougar. Are Mountain Lions here? Were they ever here? You be the judge).

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