Another Maine mystery beast: Mountain lion? House cat? Something else?

When I wrote on Monday about the “mystery beast” that passed in front of my trail camera, I suspected that many would take time to take a look at the photo and tell me what they saw.

And you did. In all, readers came up with nearly 20 suggestions, including actual and fictional animals. Then there was the apparently hungry reader who stepped out of the animal realm and suggested my photo showed a chimichanga.

I also suspected that putting a somewhat mysterious photo on my blog might get some folks to pass along their own mystery beast photos.

Again, you did.

This morning, I’ll share a couple of photos sent along by a reader named Christopher.

A reader captured this trail camera photo at a bear bait site in Ellsworth. What kind of animal is exiting, stage right?

A reader captured this trail camera photo at a bear bait site in Ellsworth. What kind of animal is exiting, stage right?

“I have a game camera picture [taken in Ellsworth] last summer during bear season,” Christopher wrote. “I have asked many people and no one seems to know for sure what it is. Wonder if you would be interested in taking a look at it?”

I was. And when Christopher sent me his photo, I was intrigued, partly because of what I could see … and partly because of what I can’t.

The nighttime photo shows only part of an animal — the rear part — so you have to imagine what the head looks like. While co-workers have said “dog,” I think the tail end looks more cat-like.

Large and cat-like. Again, I’m no biologist.

If you’ve lived in Maine for awhile, you know that there’s a long-standing debate on “large” and “cat-like” animals in Maine.

To many, “large” and “cat-like” means “mountain lion,” an animal that is not known to live in these parts.

For years, biologists had said that any actual mountain lions that lived in Maine were likely former pets that had been released into the wild.

In 2011 that theory was flipped on its head when a mountain lion was struck by a car in not-so-distant Connecticut. DNA testing determined the dead cougar was the same cat that had been documented in South Dakota.

A coyote at another of Christopher's bear bait sites, offered for comparison.

A coyote at another of Christopher’s bear bait sites, offered for comparison.

At that point, biologists conceded that a roaming mountain lion may well make its way to Maine. They added that those roaming cats would likely be on their own, looking for a mate in a state that would have very few potential mates. Therefore, they said, the chance of there being an actual breeding population of the big cats here in Maine is still very, very small.

Christopher sent along another photo for me to look at.

“Here is a picture of a coyote at a different bait site using the same type of camera for comparison,” he wrote. “The two just don’t look similar and we are truly stumped on what kind of animal this could be.”

So, now you’ve seen the photos. What do you think? Dog? Cat? Mountain lion? Something else?

I’m interested to hear what you see.

Follow John Holyoke on Twitter: @John Holyoke



John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.