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New Maine Mountain Lion Incidents

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 24th, 2009

There’s no evidence of a sustained, wild population of mountain lions in Maine, according to officials of the state. Despite that, there are have been some new incidents of some interest.

Scott Monroe of the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, Maine, does the reporting, which is carried here, in part.

Informed of the Winslow sighting on Tuesday, Wally Jakubas, mammal-group leader for Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the agency’s point person on mountain lions, said there had been another possible mountain lion report last week in the northern Augusta area, in which a feces sample (also known as scat) was recovered and is being analyzed.

Although around 20 sightings are reported annually, there have been only two scientifically confirmed cases of mountain lions in Maine: The first was in 1938 near the Maine-Quebec border and the second was in 1995 in Cape Elizabeth.


Lin Stout sits beside her children Cullen, center, and Liam at their home on the South Ridge Road in Winslow, Maine, on Tuesday. The three watched what is believed to be a mountain lion come out of the woods and onto their lawn 20- feet away near the swing set in background on Monday, June 22, 2009.

“I’m intrigued,” Jakubas said. “We had this report of the scat (in Augusta). I think the important thing is these are unconfirmed reports and the general history of these things is, when you look into them, they don’t pan out.”

Even so, the Winslow sighting “is a very convincing story,” he said, and a state biologist from the department’s Sidney office is investigating.

The sighting occurred around 4:45 p.m. Lin Stout said she and her sons Cullen, 9, and Liam, 5, were at a swing set in their backyard off South Ridge Drive when they saw the long tail bobbing through ferns and brush. They live on a 5-acre property within a subdivision that is surrounded by woods.

The tan tail, standing about 3 feet high, had a 3-inch, dark brown tip, Stout said. It was about 20 feet away, she said. Cullen ran back to the house; Liam and his mother watched.

“My 5-year-old says, ‘Mommy, a lion’s tail!’ I said, ‘It’s not like a lion you see at the zoo; it’s a mountain lion,’” Stout said.

Stout said they were about 30 feet away from the house and back deck. They froze in place as the tail disappeared back into the brush, silently.

“We did not hear any snaps of twigs, no crunches of leaves; it was like it was a ghost,” Stout said. “My son said it’s a ghost cat.”

Stout said she and her son began slowly walking back toward the house when the animal stepped out from the woods — in full view — less than 20 feet away from them. Stout said she recognized the animal as a mountain lion, describing it as perhaps weighing 130 pounds, with a large cat-like face, yellow eyes, “huge” paws, and that long tail they had seen in the brush.

Racing through Stout’s mind was the thought of what she would do if the animal leaped at them. She decided to drop to the ground and cover her son, if it came to that.

But Stout said the mountain lion seemed uninterested in them and focused on a nearby marsh area. Stout said they began slowly backing up because the mountain lion seemed not to be interested in them.

“It didn’t look menacing to us; it didn’t growl or show its teeth,” Stout said. “It was looking at the marsh. I didn’t feel that afraid; I felt more calm.”

Then, as Stout picked up her son, the 5-year-old screamed.

“I think he realized then this was a very large animal and it was wild,” she said. “That startled the animal, but it did not ever come at us.”

That’s also when Stout finally saw what the animal had been fixated on: a black, domestic cat that had wandered into the marsh area. Liam, she said, screamed, “Run kitty, run!”

Stout said the mountain lion then took one giant leap back into the woods — without making a sound. The entire encounter with the animal in full view lasted perhaps 30 seconds, Stout said.

After the encounter, Stout contacted Charles Theobald, animal control officer for the Winslow Police Department.

The animal fit the description of an eastern mountain lion, Theobald said. He suggested that the Stouts take extra precautions when going out in the area — such as having the kids wear bells.

“It’s wildlife; it’s Maine,” Theobald said. “You’re going to come across wildlife.”

* * *

Apparently the bells would be so the mountain lions will be scared away from the children? And not as some kind of location device to relocate the kids as they were being dragged away by the felines, right? What a weird bit of advice, if you asked me.

More.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


19 Responses to “New Maine Mountain Lion Incidents”

  1. Fhqwhgads responds:

    This may have been mentioned before, but if so, I’ve missed it: Does anyone know what the range of cougars was prior to the arrival of Europeans and/or during the last ice age? It seems obvious that they must have once inhabited what is now the eastern U.S. — after all, some of them are still in Florida. Is the claim that, for some strange reason, they never lived away from the Gulf Coast, or that early white settlers hunted them to local extinction, or that they had disappeared long before Columbus, or what?

  2. Alligator responds:

    The historic range of the mountain lion encompassed all 48 lower states and as far north as southern Canada. Their range extends all the way through Mexico and Central America to Argentina and Chile. They had the widest distribution I think of any big cat in the world. Well, except maybe lions (Felis leo) which at one time ranged throughout Africa, the Middle East into India, China and southern Europe.

    Pumas were wiped out in the eastern part of their range by white settlers and clearing of forests. By 1900, they were pretty well exterminated from east of the Rockies although credible reports continued in pockets of scattered remaining forests. Most folks today look at lush green forests throughout the eastern states but don’t realize they are looking at second and even third growth forests. That much was cut and removed from the mid-19th to early 20th century. They don’t realize that in many states deer (cougar prey) were counted by the hundreds, not hundreds of thousands by the 1920s. We lost that much resource.

    You can find good information on current current populations and sighting here.

    Here is nice map showing current and historic range.

    There may not be a viable reproducing population of mountain lions in Maine right now, but I believe that the picture is now changing with game protection. reforestation and the proliferation of white tail deer over the past 50 years.

  3. camperwoman responds:

    Yes, the bells are used to frighten away animals. They’re generally called “bear bells” and look like big sleigh (jingle) bells. They can be purchased at most camping/hunting supply stores. They also come with a case with magnet to silence the bell so it doesn’t drive everyone crazy when it’s not needed.

  4. Fhqwhgads responds:

    I’m from North Florida; in fact, I grew up less than 5 miles from “Panther Swamp”. My dad remembers a family encounter with a panther (that was keeping pace with their car along a dirt road) in the 1940′s. Black bears are still seen regularly (and coyotes, of course), but I don’t know of any panther sightings lately, though it certainly wouldn’t shock me.

    Most of that land has been used for decades to provide pulpwood for the now-defunct Port St. Joe paper mill. Now it’s leased out to hunters, and access is much more limited.

    Nah, the only things that amaze me are (1) the fact that mastodons were tromping through the same forests only a few thousand years ago and (2) the fact that the familiar coastline is actually quite recent — during the ice age it would have been tens of miles further out.

  5. DWA responds:

    Yep, every state but Hawaii once had – or still has – cougars.

    I know people who report sightings in West Virginia and Virginia of which they have no doubt. Rangers in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, report sightings practically every year. Efforts to get game camera shots there have been fruitless so far; but it can be grasping a bit to try to attract (with roadkilled deer carcasses) an animal that generally only eats what it kills. A Maryland DNR employee cast a mountain lion track in the Savage River State Forest not too many years ago.

    They were coast to coast, north to south. And there is lots of space to facilitate recovery, once intensive hunting reduced numbers so much that sightings no longer came frequently and hunters stopped devoting effort. So not only do they seem to be coming back in the East; they may never have truly gone extinct there, at least not over the entire region north of Florida. Maine – not surprisingly – has been a hotbed of recent sightings, likely, it would seem to me, of cats moving in from neighboring Canadian provinces..

  6. HOOSIERHUNTER responds:

    Many outdoorsman don’t advocate the use of bear bells anymore. It was always rather doubtful that they worked anyway and now bears have begun to understand that people who are wearing them might have food. Among outdoorsmen they are now somtimes called “bear dinner bells”!

    Short of a shotgun, the kids would be better off carrying pepper spray although to be very honest, they would not likely have any chance to use either item if a cat attacked.

  7. Fhqwhgads responds:

    Road-killed deer are way too plentiful to be an effective bait for a rare animal, anyway.

  8. DWA responds:

    Hoosierhunter: ditto on bells.

    I think bells are bad advice (just like tossing your pack to the bear and climbing a tree is bad advice). I much prefer to make as littlie noise as possible in griz country. With our hearing about equal, I want to hear him before he hears me. With bells, that isn’t happening. Bells are false insurance. I’d rather be on the alert for everything happening around me (which is why I’m out there anyway, not to listen to some infernal jangling all day long).

    With an animal that sees you as potential food – something a lion appears far more likely to do than a bear, at least if both of them have equal experience with humans – something it can hear in advance could, indeed, be a dinner bell. Thanks but no thanks.

  9. camperwoman responds:

    HoosierHunter, this whole series of comments reminds me of the joke about warnings to tourists in African lion country. It is recommended they wear bells and carry pepper spray. The tourist would know if there were any lions around because the scat would have bells in it and smell like pepper.

  10. kittenz responds:

    I saw a mountain lion in 1992 near Cave Run lake in eastern Kentucky, and I know a lot of other people who say they have seen them. Most of them wouldn’t know a puma from a Persian, but some of the stories I would bet the house on.

    One friend saw two pumas together when he was camping near Cumberland Lake, down near the Tennessee border (maybe they were dispersing yearlings; siblings often stay together for a few months after splitting with Mom). Another saw a large adult puma on a reclaimed strip mine site; there were elk nearby and he said it appeared to have been stalking the elk.

    And don’t forget the puma kitten that was road-killed in Floyd County, KY. The man who ran over it said that there was another small one and a big one that disappeared into the roadside brush. DNA testing suggested that at least one of that kitten’s parents was a wild puma (it also had South American DNA too, which probably means that at some point in its recent ancestry there was a captive puma).

    Friends, the pumas are here. In the south-central Appalachians they were never completely extirpated. I don’t know how many of you may have ever been hiking or climbing in the Red River Gorge, or the Breaks Interstate Park, or the Cumberland Trail, but some of those areas are as rugged as any place you’ll find in the US of A. This part of eastern Kentucky is a temperate rain forest. There are plenty of caves and canyons and other areas, such as the thick laurel and rhododendron groves, in places where the mountains are nearly perpendicular to the streams and valleys below. And everywhere, lush cover. Deer by the hundreds of thousands (at least), a large elk herd, wild turkeys, and (introduced) wild boars and goats. The pumas have their pick and they don’t have to come to bait or roadkill.

  11. CryptoInformant 2.0 responds:

    This seems, thus far, like a fairly credible sighting report, and I certainly hope that these big cats are making something of a comeback in their old range.

    Fun Fact: Did you know that Pumas are the largest species of cat capable of purring?

  12. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    Fhqwhgads,
    Prior to the arrival of Europeans, and for a good while after, the mountain lion ranged the width and breadth of North America. If your interested in human interactions with mountain lions, their decline, and their place in American culture, I recommend Mountain Lion: An unnatural history of pumas and people, by Chis Bolgiano. It’s a quick, interesting read.

  13. cryptidsrus responds:

    I agree these sightings seem very credible.

    Glad to see the Mountain Lion apparently making a comeback in Maine. Wildlife are a hardy bunch.

    And CryptoInformant 2.0:

    Thanks for the factoid!!! :)

  14. Piltdown responds:

    Augusta? Yikes! Maybe I should warn my sister-in-law!

    [Slight digression] As a child growing up in Northern Maine, I recall us kids scaring each other with tales of a “black panther ” stalking the local woods. I dismissed these stories as an adult, but now I start to wonder…

  15. Arushmij responds:

    5 years ago in August, there was a rare hurricane/flood here in Asheville, NC. It was quite warm and the power was off for almost two weeks on our street. The neighbors and I saw a whole lot of odd critters while we were sleeping on our porches in the cool night air.

    One of those nights, a wet mountain lion came up the hill from the river and went sloshing right down the middle of the street. It was a little longer than the drains in the curb, so I’d say about 4 feet. It climbed a tree two houses down and sat there for a few minutes looking up at the streetlight.

    Plenty of other people saw it, and all of us were awakened by the low growls of our dogs. I have a dog that will charge and chase a bear, but she didn’t want any of that cat. Just a low growl.

  16. zigoapex responds:

    I live in North East PA, in the Appalachians and I had 2 sightings over the years, both in daylight, one in 1985 crossing state rt 6 about a mile east of the Archbald pot hole and another sighting in 2003 about 5 miles west of the pothole on state rt 347.
    The first sighting was a mature one, I was with a friend traveling west , about 75 yds in front of us, it crossed the 3 lane rt 6 in 3 bounds, I never saw an animal so fast and agile in my life. the second sighting, was a young one, it still had spots on it,(60 to 70 lbs maybe)It ran right out in front of me and I slammed on the breaks and it stopped and tried to go back the way it came, but then turned around and crossed the road in front of me about 15 yds away.I had people say that it could have been a bobcat, but I lived and hunted in the area my whole life and seen my share of bobcats, and if you know the difference ,I have no idea how someone can confuse the two .
    I met a man a couple months ago that got a picture of one in the area and had herd of other sightings over the years.
    I believe they travel the Appalachians and that’s why we have been hearing of sightings in the North East states.

    I met a man a couple months ago that got a picture of one in the area and had herd of other sightings over the years.

  17. zigoapex responds:

    I live in North East PA, in the Appalachians and I had 2 sightings over the years, both in daylight, one in 1985 crossing state rt 6 about a mile east of the Archbald pot hole and another sighting in 2003 about 5 miles west of the pothole on state rt 347.
    The first sighting was a mature one, I was with a friend traveling west , about 75 yds in front of us, it crossed the 3 lane rt 6 in 3 bounds, I never saw an animal so fast and agile in my life. the second sighting, was a young one, it still had spots on it,(60 to 70 lbs maybe)It ran right out in front of me and I slammed on the breaks and it stopped and tried to go back the way it came, but then turned around and crossed the road in front of me about 15 yds away.I had people say that it could have been a bobcat, but I lived and hunted in the area my whole life and seen my share of bobcats, and if you know the difference ,I have no idea how someone can confuse the two .
    I met a man a couple months ago that got a picture of one in the area and had herd of other sightings over the years.
    I believe they travel the Appalachians and that’s why we have been hearing of sightings in the North East states.

  18. kittenz responds:

    zigoapex,

    I, also, believe that pumas were never completely extirpated from the Appalachian Mountains. I think that there has been a remnant resident population all along, and now that the forests and the deer and elk herds are recovering, the puma population is also recovering. Western pumas also appear to be dispersing eastward and possibly Florida pumas northward as well.

  19. colin responds:

    Hello everyone,
    I just read the article on Loren Coleman in the Portland Daily Sun. I was drawn to it because I’ve always had an interest in Bigfoot, but the sub-headline really got my attention. “Maine mountain lion”. I believe I may of saw a mountain on my way to work just over a month ago.
    On my long commute from Bridgton to Portland a large cat ran across the road in front of my car in the town of Casco. It was a solid tan color and about the size of a large dog. And the head was definitely feline. I instantly thought ” Oh my god! An escaped zoo lion!” But then thought of the possibility of a mountain lion or bobcat. I told my friends who were pretty skeptical and all but forgot about it til today. I spent some time looking at pictures of bobcats, lynx, and fisher cats earlier and I’m pretty sure it was none of those. I honestly thought there were mountain lions in Quebec and maybe one wandered south. I had no idea they were wiped out in the Eastern U.S.
    Anyway didn’t know were else to post this. Great site too.



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