The Maine Cougar Conundrum

A few years ago, while walking out of a woods road near dusk I looked up to the crest of the hill on the road and saw something glide out of the woods, stop and turn to look at me.   I was very surprised at it’s size, and uttered a small oath under my breath as I struggled to identify what it was that I was looking at.   As I got closer and got a better look I realized it was a huge bobcat.   A few days after that I saw the local game warden and mentioned to him that if he had any cougar sightings  from that town it was just a big  bobcat.

The Eastern Cougar was declared officially extinct in Maine on March 2 of 2011, to the chagrin of lots of people in this state that believe that it exists here.   I was lucky enough to see and hear a cougar  while on a two week hiking trip in New Mexico with the Boy Scouts.  I believe that Maine has the habitat that can support cougars, I have a very open mind about the possibility of their presence here, and I would love to be the person that gets irrefutable proof that they are here, but I don’t think they are, and here is why.

First is most people, including those that spend a fair amount of time in the woods of this state ever see a wild cat, and if they are lucky enough to it is only for a very brief moment.  Seeing a glimpse of a creature like that often leads one to believe that it is bigger than it truly is.   And bobcats in Maine get a lot bigger than people imagine they do.  Pictures are worth a thousand words so take a look at the picture below;

Maine Bobcat

What is it?  Being honest with yourself, what would you say if you got a glimpse of this running away from you in the woods?  What would you estimate that it weighs?   Look at the tail – is it the distinctive bobcat tail, or is it a long tail curled between the rear legs?

Walking through the woods this creature would look huge – believe me.  To answer the questions above, it is a bobcat – a 50 pound one.   A lot of people think bobcats are covered with spots – here in Maine, and especially if the cat is older, such is not the case, as you can see from the picture.

Now, compare that picture to this picture;

Can you tell the difference?  If you saw either one of those for the second that you do see them in the woods, would you be able to identify it?

Second – all the purported mountain lion  pictures I’ve seen are magically missing the distinctive long tail.  In one of the general stores in the Katahdin region someone even went to the trouble of scratching out the tail on the photo.  There is one photo I have seen that has given  me pause, and that can be found here looking at the game camera photo(s).

Looking at the enlarged photo, it does appear to have a long tail, but you can’t actually see it. I’ve also seen ears that appear as in the photo on bobcats.   The first give away that it is a bobcat is it has belly spots.  The second is when you look at the original photo and compare it to the surrounding scenery, it just isn’t anywhere near big enough or tall enough to be a cougar.

Finally,  when the lynx population started dropping down into Northern Maine a few years ago we knew it because we had bodies.  A car ran one over, and a trapper caught one.  If you recall the lone wolf that wandered into the state 10 years ago or so was promptly shot.  I believe if we had  mountain lions in the state at some point we would see a dead one – either by car, rifle, or trap, and despite all the “sightings” we haven’t seen that.  Also,  it is still legal here in Maine to use hounds for bobcats during the winter, and I do believe that at some point if the big cats were here, someone would have had one treed by now.

That’s my two cents on the Maine Cougar issue…

If you have genuine untouched photos I’d love to see them.

There is an interesting update here

A very impressive dispersal to say the least!

And a good video;

Some truly fantastic bobcat footage;

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