Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 19th, 2007
A group of Dexter Regional High School students and their teacher-adviser Regan McPhetres plan to investigate and prove the existence of mountain lions in Maine.
McPhetres, who along with another teacher ran a similar program from 1992 through 2001 in the Winslow-Waterville area, believes there is plenty of evidence that the elusive creatures have a presence in Maine.
“There’s evidence they exist around us,” McPhetres said Sunday, despite the reluctance of some state officials to embrace the findings. He said confirmed sightings have been reported in Vermont, New Hampshire and New Brunswick.
Mountain lions are supposed to be extinct east of the Mississippi with the exception of a population in the Everglades, according to McPhetres. His earlier program, however, provided enough results to help convince some state wildlife officials these wild animals are in Maine, he said.
While state officials attribute these sightings to an escaped pet or a transient cat, the information compiled by the students along with information from other organizations and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s own work, has increased the department’s sensitivity that the large cats possibly exist in the state, McPhetres said.
The next step, the science teacher said, is to prove a breeding population exists in the state.
McPhetres said the Dexter Regional High School program will build on the previous program which revealed one hot spot triangle for sightings that extended from Skowhegan to Stetson to Greenville.
Three students are enrolled in the pilot program in Dexter, which will be extended in the spring to include up to 10 students. These students must show talent, interest and perseverance to stay with the program, McPhetres said.
A hot line for sightings has been created at the school for the program. A survey will be mailed out to those who call. Based on the information provided, students will follow up with either a face-to-face interview or a telephone call, according to McPhetres.
In addition, hard evidence will be collected from sightings, including photos, scat, tracks and hair. The students also will develop a map of the sightings.
McPhetres said his group will share information obtained during the investigation with the DIF&W and any other agency interested.
The program will tie politics, government, science and research together and will provide students with skills transferable to any kind of job they choose to pursue in the future, according to McPhetres.
McPhetres expects the investigation will continue on an annual basis depending upon the findings.
People who believe they have seen a mountain lion can send a letter to Dexter Regional High School, care of Mountain Cats, Science Department, 12 Abbott Hill Road, Dexter 04930, or they may call the Mountain Cats hot line at 924-5536, ext. 236. by Diana Bowley “Dexter: Group to probe mountain lion mystery,” Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, December 17, 2007.