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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why I don't believe there are mountain lions in NH: No 'critter cam' photos

Wired has a nice piece about the gazillions of photos of rare animals that have been taken around the world by automated critter cams in the wild - you can see it here - which gives me an opportunity to say again that the main reason I don't believe any mountain lions exist in NH is the lack of such photos.

The woods of New Hampshire, like almost any wild area reasonably near populated regions, are full of cameras that snap pictures when activated by motion detector. Google "critter cam New Hampshire" and you'll find sites online which are full of pix of shy beasts like bobcats and fishers taken by these cams, as well as the usual suspects of deer, moose, porcupines and coyotes.

But there are no pictures of mountain lions (aka jaguars, catamount, cougar). If there were any out there, they would have been photographed by now, and we definitely would have heard about it.

John Harrigan, the Union-Leader's excellent and knowledgeable outdoors columnist, disagrees. He thinks there are enough credible sounding reports - no smoke without fire, so to speak - and even wrote a column a while back which showed a cougar photo allegedly taken in NH. But it lacked all information about where/when it was taken, depended on a vague claim, and looked like a taxidermy model posed in the woods. There has been no follow-up, so I'm highly unconvinced.

Here's an earlier post I wrote about a Bangor Daily News article which showed how easy it is for people to fool themselves thinking they've seen a cougar.

Here's a 2011 story I wrote when the "eastern mountain lion" was officially listed as extinct, talking more about people's firmly held beliefs that these big cats are lurking somewhere out there.