Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ever Seen a Mountain Lion? These People Think They Have

One story that never goes away, for people interested in wildlife, is whether there are mountain lions in the northeast. The official answer is no. And yet there's been an intermittent but endless stream of articles about mountain lion sightings. The best of these is Edward Hoagland's great essay, "Hailing the Elusory Mountain Lion," but I remember reading a good piece in Audubon magazine about 25 years ago, too, and others since.

Yesterday my former colleague Mike Risinit had a good story in the Journal News. What jumped out at me was the number of people who said they had seen mountain lions in eastern Putnam and Dutchess counties, along Route 22, near the Connecticut border. Here are some excerpts from Mike's story and from the online comments about it:

... a Patterson family spotted a possible mountain lion in their Somerset Drive yard.

Nicole Rubin, the Patterson mother who said last month that she saw a mountain lion, said several neighbors reached out after seeing The Journal News article about her feline sighting and shared similar stories. John Prophet of Patterson, who lives a mile away from Rubin, said he saw a mountain lion - "big head, big body, long, long tail - in his yard about five years ago....

Christine Belcher, who lives in Dutchess County, said she was driving near her home last month and had to stop her Honda CR-V to let three mountain lions cross Dover Furnace Road.

"It was like a momma and a couple of smaller ones with a long tail, a flat face and big ears," she said, recalling the animals that were so close she could see their whiskers. "In my mind, I called it a mountain lion."

... I'm sure i saw a mountain lion a year and a half ago on rt.22 just north of wingdale. it was about 75 yards ahead of me running across 22. I distinctly remember that long thick tail and tight fur, it wasn't a dog and wasn't a bobcat....

... I previously posted that I saw a mountain lion this year in Dutchess CO. and after talking to family and neighbors, I have learned that there has been several sightings in the past. One sighting was a road kill. The same person who saw this had one run across Rt.22 in the same area several weeks later....

That area is not exactly wilderness but it is the heart of the 6,000-acre Great Swamp and it's close enough to the Taconic Ridge, the Berkshire Mountains and the Highlands so that I suppose it's not implausible that some mountain lions are holed up there, or at least pass through with some regularity.

Mike's story includes a photo that someone submitted purporting to be a mountain lion in Columbia County. I wish he had said when it was taken and by whom. (Thursday a.m.: Mike told me yesterday that the shot was taken by the brother of a colleague of his, using one of those cameras that are triggered when wildlife moves into its path.)



Anonymous Casey- boo_96@hotmail.com said...

Does anyone honestly think that three big dogs could fight off a mountain lion? We may be moving to an area where three other dogs have been eaten by the mountain lions here in Minnesota.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

We have the some issue here. Last summer, there was a reported sighting in Lucas, about 10 miles away. The experts won't say it isn't possible, but they don't find any evidence for the presence of mountain lions either (specifically, a dead mountain lion). This article is specific to TX but has some general relevance. There haven't been any carcasses found in my county, but that doesn't make me feel any better when I'm walking alone through a local nature preserve. I hope the experts are right.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

I think it's cool some large cats are being found - the stories about dwindling numbers of ocelot and jagarundi in Texas are downright depressing.

But some cats have been spotted on trail cameras set up for infrared at nighttime, since all cats are nocturnal. Some seem to be very large feral cats, perhaps more like a bobcat than a true mountain lion. I have seen bobcats the size of a medium dog, about 30-40 pounds. Yes, they are scary, too.

There have also been reports of cougars and panthers, which were more common a century or so ago. I wouldn't doubt if a few were around, along with the mountain lion. They wouldn't be common, and as I said they are very secretive and mostly hunt at night.

I'm for more diversity, anyways!

11:07 AM  

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