Officials Continue To Deny Cougars Are In Maine

Posted by admin On December - 29 - 2010

The calls keep coming in and the sightings keep getting reported, but the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife still is not about to admit that there are cougars wandering through the forests of that great state.

It was just 10 years ago that a man named Roddy Glover reported seeing a female cougar and a “good-sized offspring” in Monmouth. Biologists investigated and, at the time, said that the tracks that were documented at the scene were “the most solid piece of cougar evidence we’ve ever had.”

But to admit it was a cougar? No way and no how.

That hasn’t stopped the reports from just pouring in, including one alleged sighting near Greenville in November. But biologists and officials at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife continue to say that there is almost never evidence to the fact that it was a cougar, and that sightings are typically identification of other animals.

For those who don’t know, the cougar is the fourth-largest feline in the world, and has a population that spans impressive distances throughout South America and North America. The eastern cougar once had confirmed populations ranging from Canada to South Carolina and as far west as Michigan. That population, however, was viewed as threatening to humans and farm animals and were hunted to what was thought to be extinction in the early 1900s. The last of the eastern cougar was documented as being killed near the Canadian border in 1938.

Despite the species being extinct in most books, the sightings have been reported since the last animal was killed. Those sightings have been increasing in frequency and have been reported in New Jersey, Delaware, South Carolina and Virginia as well as Maine.

According to a recent article in the Bangor Daily News, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife averages about one cougar report every two weeks, though they are often reported in spurts.

“These animals were never abundant in Maine, and people have been thinking they’ve been seeing cougars for more than 100 years,” said Wally Jakubas of the DIF&W. “Most of the time, I don’t think people are seeing cougars. On the other hand, I don’t want to discourage people from reporting sightings because look at other states. Reports of people releasing [captive] cougars into the wild are quite common.”

But there has been evidence of the cats nonetheless. The sighting in Monmouth had tracks confirmed and recorded by the department, and cougar hairs were found in Cape Elizabeth in the mid 1990s (though the department officially only stated that the hairs were consistent with cougar hair, but never confirmed with a DNA test).

Officials in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources did the same song and dance for years, denying every claim of cougar sightings whenever one was reported. There were no cougars in Michigan, they said, and that was that.

Earlier in 2010, a trail camera in the western end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula captured a photo of one of the big cats. The DNR, months later, announced that it was indeed a cougar. The cat, as everyone else knew but the state officials couldn’t bring themselves to admit, was in Michigan.

The question is, how long will officials in Maine continue to tell people they are mistaken and don’t know the difference between a cougar and a bobcat, a large dog or a deer?

If it looks like a cougar, it moves like a cougar and it acts like a cougar, the odds are, it’s a cougar.

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