Tuesday, February 21, 2017
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An excellent example of why eye-witness reports of mountain lions should be treated with caution

The Bangor Daily News has an excellent article today about a photograph that seems to show a black panther in Holden, Maine. It's exactly the sort of sighting that occurs all the time from people who are certain they've spotted a mountain lion (panther, cougar, all the same). Except the photo is of a large tomcat. Here's the story, and here's a tidbit:

It’s a great illustrative example of perspective and size and size referencing,” said Keel Kemper, a wildlife biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

There have been no confirmed sighting of big cats in New Hampshire since the last eastern cougar was killed a century ago, but it's easy to find hunters or outdoorspeople who swear they've seen one, no matter what those doggone bureaucrats think! The lack of spoor/prints/hair doesn't dissuade them. I'm conservative: I'll believe it when it's proven.

Kemper takes no pleasure in shooting down mountain lion sightings, or in refuting the claims of mystery beasts. The DIF&W fields “dozens and dozens” of reports of big cats each year, according to Kemper, and they take each seriously. Biologists are also bound to support their conclusions with solid physical evidence. And Kemper admits that he’s made the same common mistake when it comes to identifying big cats.

“I remember having my own little mountain lion sighting,” he said. “I saw it, raced home, got my camera, raced to the site. And the paw prints in the sand were the size of a quarter.”

“I thought I’d found the holy grail. I’d spotted it,” Kemper said. “That was an excellent experience for me.”