Mainers believe that mountain lions walk among us

Last week, I shared an email from a reader who was sure she’d seen a huge black cat lurking in the woods in the coastal village of Corea. The BDN reader had no photos to back her claim, so I put the question to a Maine wildlife biologist, who explained what the woman may have been seeing.

At the top of his list: A black bear, which he said could resemble a black panther — a species that biologist Water Jakubas assures us we don’t have here in Maine — if a rear leg was extended behind it.

Then, knowing that Mainers are passionate about their cougar/mountain lion/puma/cougar sightings, I asked readers for their stories … and photos.

Unfortunately, but predictably, the responses were short on photographic proof of mountain lions in the Maine woods.

Fortunately (and also predictably), plenty of folks were willing to share their stories; the consensus among those respondents: We many not have photos, but the big cats are out there.

In all, 128 people commented on the story, and several took the time to send an email. Here are a few representative samples:

From Joe Cutting, via email: “I had a similar experience in Sedgwick on Oct. 7. At about 3 p.m., I was sitting at my children’s barn when I observed the animal. My initial reaction was that it was the biggest black dog that I had ever seen,” Cutting wrote. “That reaction gave way immediately to [the thought] that it was no dog, but some kind of mountain lion.

“His body and motion were distinctly feline. His body was about 3 feet high with [its] neck and head higher, The body was 5 or 7 feet long, not including the tail,” Cutting wrote.

Cutting said he yelled at the cat twice, from about 100 feet away, and both times, it stopped and looked at him.

“He was an impressive animal and not one you would want to mess with,” Cutting wrote. Unfortunately, I was too slow with my camera … I wonder if it could be the same animal reported in your article. Corea and Sedgwick are not that far apart.”

From Stacey Bouchard of Madawaska, via email: “I was walking my dog about three weeks ago and I did see a black panther with a tail shaped like a ‘J’,” Bouchard said. “It was not a bear. I know what a bear looks like. I saw a panther.

“I ran home to tell my husband, who didn’t believe me,” she wrote. “My dog also went nuts after getting the scent of this most beautiful-looking creature. This beautiful feline was not as big as my chocolate lab dog, however, it was much bigger than a regular cat.”

Bouchard said she nobody has believed her account, but she’s confident in her version of events.

“I saw his big paws and long legs and his ears were tilted back a little bit like a cat on a mission,” she wrote. “I looked up panther [on the internet] and that’s exactly what I saw. What a beautiful animal, and I was lucky enough to see it with my own eyes. I did see a black panther. I don’t care what anybody says. I saw one.”

From Pat Oftedal of Eastport, via email: “It was June 20, this year. I had just passed through East Dixfield when an animal … crossed Route 2 in front of my car at about noon,” Oftedal wrote. “It loped across the pavement, then looked over its shoulder and trotted into the brush.

Oftedal compared the photo to others and found examples of mountain lions that look similar.

“The tail was the elongated ‘J’ … carried high … almost parallel to the ground,” Oftedal wrote. “I surely wish I could have snapped a photo, but I was so close to hitting it that I needed both hands on the steering wheel and both feet on the brake. I got a very good look. I’ve seen bears, bobcats, coyotes and numerous other animals in the wild, but this was NOT one of those. I still get excited thinking about it.”

And finally, from Julie Giblair of South Solon, via email: “My sister, Diane Poulin, a retired English teacher and myself both saw a mountain lion on the East Madison Road this summer!” she wrote.

Poulin saw the cat first, Giblair said, yelling, “What is that?”

The duo stopped the car and got a better look; both agreed that they’d seen the same thing.

“We said, ‘A mountain lion!’ and gave each other a high five,” Giblair wrote. “We both saw it but nobody will believe us. But we know.”

All of which goes to show, many Mainers are convinced that mountain lions (or black panthers) are out there, and that they’ve seen the elusive critters.

And as always, if you’ve got a tale to tell or a photo to share, I’m willing to take a look.

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke

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.