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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Is this a picture of a mountain lion in southern NH? (Hint: No)

The above photo was emailed to a colleague at the newspaper. It was taken by a "critter cam" near a house in the Souhegan Valley. The email called it a mountain lion, and said this had been "confirmed by UNH."

That would be big news; as regular GraniteGeek readers know, the debate over whether NH has wild mountain lions is a contentious one, even though it's quite certain that we don't.

But since UNH doesn't really have wildlife biologists, we were suspicious of the claim. My colleague sent the picture to Fish & Game, which has lots of wildlife biologists, and was told that it's a picture of a house cat.

I'll admit it looks more-than-house-cat-ish, but that's an example of how it's easy to be fooled by size and perspective in pictures.

It's also an example of why I am wildly skeptical of all the reports I hear saying "I saw a mountain lion in NH!" No matter how experienced an outdoorsman you are, it's too easy to be fooled. If there really were mountain lions on the prowl, there would be a good critter-cam picture of them by now, because there are literally tens of thousands of such camers out there in the woods.

Yes, I know about the mountain lion that got hit by an SUV in Connecticut, having wandered there from Wisconsin. I also know about the zoo that used to operate in Lyndeborough and then in Brookline, which had a jaguar. That doesn't change things.