Photo by John Ranta

Last mountain lion shot in New England – Montpelier, VT

I was prompted to start this blog by a pair of coincidences this morning, the first at  breakfast at the Country Cafe in Jaffrey, and the second a discussion I overheard at the farmer’s market in Hancock. As I was finishing up my sausage gravy and biscuits, I happened to catch a glimpse of some wildlife photos on the cafe wall. A friend of the cafe’s keeps a camera with an automatic trip sensor out in the woods, and the cafe has framed photos of deer, an otter, a bobcat, and……a mountain lion? Yes, the picture was not perfect, but this animal looked like a mountain lion, the long and sleek body, the well-muscled shoulders and the tail curling away from the viewer. According to the waitress, the photographer keeps his cameras in the woods in Sharon, just east of Jaffrey. But after examining the photo for a long time, I could not decide. The angle (not face on, and not full profile, sort of 3/4s view) and the lighting, left a lot of doubt. It could be a mountain lion. Or it could have been a bobcat.

This got me to thinking about my old days of following mountain lion sightings in New England, but I set it to the back of my mind as I drove to Hancock. As I walked through the farmer’s market a half hour later, I overheard the snippets of a conversation between three men, “And the tail was 3 feet long, this was no bobcat.” followed by the other replying “I saw two of them, young ones, wrestling.” I stopped to ask them if they were talking about mountain lions. They told me they were indeed, and told me about  the mountain lions that they of them each had seen in Hancock in the last year.

Two mountain lion stories in one day was enough for me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, reading about, and following up on stories of mountain lions in New England. I’ve missed the New England Mountain Lion bulletin board that was shut down about 10 years ago, where people posted stories of their sightings and experiences with alleged mountain lions. So I decided that it would be fun (and perhaps useful) to start this blog, in the hopes that it will become a place where New Hampsherites can post their mountain lion stories, and I can followup on some of them to try and figure out what’s going on out there.

I got interested in the idea of New England cougars some years ago, when I was part of a small group who spent a couple of days studying tracking with Paul Rezendes. At some point during the weekend the conversation turned to mountain lions, and Paul told us that he was certain that there were mountain lions in New England. In fact a friend of his, John McCarter, discovered a scat next to a half-eaten beaver carcass in the Quabbin some years prior. The scat later tested positive for mountain lion DNA. Much later, the report said that the DNA was from a South American mountain lion, making this cat likely a released pet.

There have been hundreds of reports of mountain lions (aka cougars, pumas, catamounts) over the past 15 years in the Northeast. Many have been questionable, where a perhaps excited (who wouldn’t be) eyewitness mistook a coyote, or a bobcat, for a cougar. But many of these sightings seem credible – reported by people with wildlife experience, who had a clear view, and who had a solid story to tell.

My hope for this blog is that people will post their own sightings and stories. If you have seen a mountain lion in New Hampshire, click on the Link – Comment. Please provide as much data as you can: location, time of day, distance, activity, length of time (be as specific and detailed as you can). If you don’t mind, leave an email link as well so that I can contact you. I’ll collect stories here, and do as much as I can to follow up and report back on what is out there…jr