Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 20th, 2009
No physical evidence has been found by officials of the State of New Hampshire confirming the first cougar in 140 years is there, but officials are taking seriously a new report of a sighting.
Do you wonder why? Because one of their own staff members saw it.
The sighting occurred late Wednesday [September 16, 2009] in Barnstead, as the staff member for New Hampshire Fish and Game Department was following up on a citizen’s reported sighting, said Mark Ellingwood, a wildlife biologist with the department. The staff member was walking on a trail and spotted the mountain lion about 30 yards away. It was in sight for about 10 seconds.
“The animal slipped away, and that was the end of the encounter,” Ellingwood said.
The sighting appears credible, he said. But like the 100 or so mountain lion reports each year, this one failed to yield any tracks, hair or scat that would convince scientists a mountain lion had definitely passed that way.
If the Barnstead cat were indeed a mountain lion, it is likely a captive animal someone brought into the state and then released, Ellingwood said.
Of course, no one knows where this cougar came from, or if it is a wild specimen, an escaped captive, a released panther, or even if it fell from heaven. Explaining away the origins of this mystery cat before there is even any physical evidence of it to be tested, sure smells a bit of the past official silencing of such reports.
This media account nicely balances, in an unusual move, the above with the following:
“They’re unmistakable,” said Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, a writer who studied mountain lions in Colorado in preparation for her book “The Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture.” “There isn’t anything else that looks like a mountain lion.”
Thomas said she spotted a mountain lion in 1992 in the field of her Peterborough home and that her son saw one in recent weeks. A friend saw one lying dead by the road, she said, but the carcass was gone by the time he returned.
“Fish and Game is very reluctant to acknowledge they’re here and have been for years,” she said. “You don’t need to be a scientist to know it’s a mountain lion.”
Meanwhile, an earlier eyewitness, Cynthia Seligowski of Brentwood explains the movements of a mountain lion she believes she spotted on her Middle Road lawn a week ago today.
Seligowski, an artist who is not particularly thrilled with all the media coverage she has been receiving since her sighting took place, said she has little doubt about what she saw and has already discussed her sighting with Fish and Game. She has since learned other sightings have taken place up and down Route 107.
She said the animal appeared calm and very healthy as it sat on her lawn. She considers herself lucky to have seen one.
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