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This looks to be a big freakin cat, till you relize papa smurf paid his way thru vo-tech, working as a carney. In fact he was one of the "little people" in a show they had. Truth is it's just a over fed Maine Coon Kat.

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I love this post because its been a big topic for discussion in my wildlife management classes. There are a ton of reports buzzing around NY now about secret releases of the big cats by the DEC, supposed cover ups, ect ect ect. My wildlife teacher has worked in cooperation with the state to investigate lion reports from all over the state for years and his conclusion ( a wildlife proffesional who had lived in lion country for years and spent years in the field in NY investigating claims) there is no breeding population of cougars in the state.  Heres some interesting facts that have made me really doubt the existence of the big cats-

- nearly half the reported encounters in NY are of BLACK mounatin lions. Melanistic lions have been historically EXTREMELY rare even where the cats are abundant, with few photos throughout history.

- Every reported lion-deer kill in the state has LACKED the obvious signs of claws, pointing to only one thing- declawed cats.

- Nearly ALL investigated reports by the state and my prof. turn out to be HOUSE CATS. A few others turn out to be bobcats. A recent sighting of a 14 FOOT MOUNTAIN LION  and its "mate" being seen regularly by a property owner near Canandaigua turned out to be an orange tabby cat. The owner then insisited that was the smaller cat, not the big male. People will see what they want to see.

Every piece of hard evidense (tracks, scat, kills, ect) has lead back to a released cat. Are there captive mountain lions wandering around NY? Yeah, sure, occasionally. Are there released cougars in the state surviving in the wild? A small chance but maybe. Are there WILD cougars? The evidence points in one direction- Absolutlely not.

Rick

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We had a cougar living in my neighborhood this spring.  He took out a few free-range dogs and killed a calf elk in my neighbors front lawn (I was at work and missed it!).  It didn't bother the horses, surprisingly to me.

I think they're neat animals.

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You might remind your professor of a few things.  First is that in low light conditions it is not unusual for animals to appear black or darker than they really are. What are described as black mountain lions could easily be regular mountain lions in shadow or poor light.  

Second is the question of how many people does he think keep mountain lions as pets and then release them in NY?  I've never met anyone who kept one as a pet, and I doubt that there are all that many private individuals keeping them.  To write off all mountain lion kills and sightings as released animals seems a bit questionable to me.  

Finally, remember that there were no Coyotes in NY thirty years ago either - now they are in Central Park.  Young toms travel hundreds of miles in seeking new territories.  We know they have moved into Nebraska and SD, and apparently MN.  The population is clearly moving eastward and it is only a matter of time as things stand before there are wild mountain lions in NY, if they aren't there already.  

There is no doubt that the majority of urban and suburban residents have little knowledge of the natural world, and are easily capable of confusing house cats and mountain lions.  The question is whether there have been sightings by credible witnesses who do know the difference?

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PC,

 I imagine we'll see it again in a couple years with a new town and state/ province.  Maybe Sayreville, NJ.

My brother who lives in Monroe Township tells me a black bear was spotted there. That's hard to believe too. I'm a product of Newark/Elizabeth.

Late to this party, Lars, but I can assure you we have bears in Central NJ -- I'm only a couple of towns from Monroe.  

They don't publicize it, but as the bears in northern NJ have become a "problem", they've trapped and transferred some to the largish WMA's in the central part of the State -- all in a misguided attempt to avoid reinstating the bear hunt.

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As Windy alluded to, the agencies that investigate these claims are necessarily weary and skeptical.  The burden of proof rests with the claimant, and having born witness to such "proof", the VAST majority of it is comical at best.  As Rick stated, and as hunters I'm sure we are all too aware of this, but we tend to see what we want to see, especially as it relates to the unknown (is that tree branch a deer antler? did a bird just flush or was that the dog? etc).  

Not that people are stupid, or trying to be malicious, they are simply overcome by excitation and ignorance.  As Rick, Windy, and myself can probably attest too, the overwhelming majority of mt. lion "sightings" are simply house cats.  Now that seems ridiculous, that a 70-80kg lion coming in over a meter in length could be mistaken for an 13lb kitty looking for chickadees.  But its true.

Now, being a hunter and also an employee of my former states fish and game, I've heard many stories from excellent, knowledgeable hunters, that WOULD know the difference.  And they swear by it.  While I have no personal reason to doubt or believe them, they can never offer any tangible proof.  Photos, video, carcasses, etc. are never found or offered.

In this study Wisconsin Mt. Lion Viability Analysis, the authors conclude that a MINIMUM of 25 adult, reproductively active lions would be needed, in optimum niche conditions, to have a net positive fecundity.  Fifty animals for one population is more apropos.  Now, taking NH as an example, then factoring in density distribution and human impact studies, the chances for a wild lion population to exist approach 0.  This is not applicable everywhere, however, just an example.  

So if there are lions out there, and they are not "native", where did they come from?  Many here seem to think that the number of lions in captivity that are released, incidentally or purposefully, is infinitesimal.  They may be right, but I would argue that so are the number of validated lion sightings, even giving the benefit of the doubt to the unsubstantiated ones.  But lions kept as pets are much more frequent than I assumed.  Its illegal, and thus I surmise why we don't hear about it, but it happens.

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bosco mctavitch

This is one of my favorite recurring threads--I like it even more than the pheasant load threads.

Here's some reading--

From the Adirondack Almanac:

Friday, December 02, 2005

Adirondack Mountain Lions, Panthers, Pumas, and Cougars Oh My!

There is perhaps no wildlife question in the Adirondack Region that raises so many anti-government / anti-DEC hackles as the question of whether or not there are mountain lions (a.ka. cougars, pumas, panthers, catamounts) in them thar woods. People actually get angry... figuring that them city folk in the DEC just don't know what they're talking about, they don't believe the locals, or they are hiding the fact that the big cats are around.

According to State wildlife officials the last verified sighting of a cougar, or mountain lion, was more than one hundred years ago although occasionally reports of sightings surface from experienced outdoors people. NY State Wildlife Pathologist Ward Stone on his In Our Backyardradio program (on WAMC) noted this week that there is no solid scientific evidence that the cats are here. He did however say, like most DEC people, that it is possible that they might be.

Today, the Oneonta Daily Star is offering the following from John Lutz, co-founder of the Eastern Puma Research Network:

I’d like to set the record straight ... there are definitely WILD big cats in the Empire State. The majority of WILD mountain lions are in the Adirondack Park Region, but smaller populations survive in the Catskills & Finger Lake Regions.

He cites more than 900 sightings "from credible witnesses with backgrounds in forestry, law enforcement and wildlife." Apparently he doesn't understand the variability and unreliability of eyewitness accounts.

We believe that there may be a very small population in the Adirondacks but without a combination of proof - DNA from scat, a photo from a reliable source, an undeniable track cast, or a dead animal - any reasonable person who accepts the scientific method simply has to say - maybe, we just don't know.

Until we know for sure, we offer for your reading pleasure, a bobcat story:

In 1912, Louis Napolean Beach was employed at a livery stable in Riverside (now Raparius) and was driving a pair of horses hitched to a light wagon to Hooper’s Garnet Mine one late Friday afternoon (Hooper’s mine is now abandoned and located just off Thirteenth Lake Road in North River). As he passed under a large pine tree he heard a rustling above and a bobcat leaped into the back of his wagon. Beach hit the cat with the butt end of his horsewhip, only enraging it and spooking the horses, which bolted. With the wagon thundering down the road the cat clawed and bit Beach leaving several ugly wounds before it was thrown from the wagon when the horses made a sudden jump to one side of the road. The horses kept running toward the village of Garnet and into the barnyard of R. J. Bennett where they stopped so quickly that Beach was thrown from the wagon, relatively unhurt.

By the way - E-bay has a cool photo for sale right now of a big, big, bobcat taken (description not withstanding) at the Olmsteadville Post Office (between Minerva and Pottersville).<!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]-->

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I looked online and could not find it, but at some point I saw a map showing the locations of all the mountain lion sightings recorded in New York ever recorded since the last confirmed sighting.  It was a lot of them, many, many times more than I expected, but it was interesting to me that they were consistently in the the same areas even over long periods of time.  That seemed rather mildly suggestive to me.  

WHDTT, I'm not sure what you mean by "taking NH as an example, then factoring in density distribution and human impact studies, the chances for a wild lion population to exist approach 0"--I'm not a biologist, so I don't know the terminology.  Could you explain what you mean by this and how you arrive at that conclusion?  

I ask because the layperson (that would be me) I think will interpret your statement as "there isn't enough room and there's too much disturbance from human population in NH for there to be mountain lions"...but there are well documented mtn lions in many urban and suburban areas in the US, and with large swaths of land across the northeast encompassing New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine as well as neighboring Quebec, it seems plausible at least that there is plenty of space and not too much disturbance for them.  Am I interpreting your statement wrong?

BTW, Hunshatt--this guy is your "Agent Moulder"...seems a bit obsessed and somewhat strange just from my gut, but he has wonderful little hand-colored Maps of confirmed Puma Populations in the East

Not a clue where the info for this came from or how credible it is, but it seemed interesting nonetheless.  Bigfoot, anyone?

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I thought I saw a hen woodcock carrying a chick, but am not so sure anymore. Memories get hazy in time.
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I thought I saw a hen woodcock carrying a chick, but am not so sure anymore. Memories get hazy in time.

uhhhhhhhh, never mind. I don't need you throwing me softballs.......

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PartridgeCartridge
I thought I saw a hen woodcock carrying a cougar, but am not so sure anymore. Memories get hazy in time.

I guess its just one of those mysteries we may not solve for a while.

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WHDTT, I'm not sure what you mean by "taking NH as an example, then factoring in density distribution and human impact studies, the chances for a wild lion population to exist approach 0"--I'm not a biologist, so I don't know the terminology.  Could you explain what you mean by this and how you arrive at that conclusion?  

I ask because the layperson (that would be me) I think will interpret your statement as "there isn't enough room and there's too much disturbance from human population in NH for there to be mountain lions"...but there are well documented mtn lions in many urban and suburban areas in the US, and with large swaths of land across the northeast encompassing New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine as well as neighboring Quebec, it seems plausible at least that there is plenty of space and not too much disturbance for them.  Am I interpreting your statement wrong?

No, I seemed to have obfuscated the point a bit.  My (also lay: my field biology resume encompasses exactly 20 university credits, 1 internship, and 3 years in the field, pretty green relatively speaking) point was that they (mt. lions), if numerous to have a sustainable wild population in NH (or VT) that there would be undeniable, tangible proof.  I didn't mean that they couldn't live here, but if they did, there would surely be many more interactions.  

Even in the depths of the WMNF, there is relatively routine human activity.  Loggers, campers, etc. use the relatively small parcels of land constantly, and yet, in all this time, not one dead cat, one clear photo or video?  Hell, Champ is more frequently seen than a bona fide cougar!!

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