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Claims of mountain lions spread

  • Bobcats are most commonly mistaken for mountain lions, according to NH Fish and Game Biologist PAtrick Tate.  Photo credit: Squam Lakes Natural Science Center

  • NH Fish and Game currently has no physical evidence that would suggest that mountain lions are living in the state of New Hampshire.  Photo by Squam Lakes Natural Science Center



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

On Sunday morning, New Ipswich resident Jim Antos saw an animal that New Hampshire Fish and Game says has not lived in this area since 1857. 

It was only for about three seconds, and at about 50 yards away, but Antos firmly believes that he saw a mountain lion, continuing the debate as to whether mountain lions have returned to the area, centuries after the eastern mountain lion went extinct. 

“My first thought was that it was a fox, but then I saw the long tail that drooped down to the ground and then curled back up at the end,” said Antos. “I then went online and when I saw some pictures of mountain lions, it confirmed in my mind that that was what I saw.” 

Antos has had various woodland critters in his backyard on a daily basis – ranging from deer to skunks to bobcats to bears – but this is the first time he has encountered what he believes is a mountain lion. 

Antos is not alone in his thought that there is at least one mountain lion in the area, as a Facebook page called “Greenville/New Ipswich area mountain lion sighting” was created on Oct. 8 as a way for people in the area to keep track of such sightings. As of Wednesday afternoon, the page had 118 members and under a half dozen reported sightings. 

“It was very cool [to see a mountain lion] because not many people see them, but it was also a little frightening,” said Jackie Hayes Skidmore, who lives near Pratt Brook in New Ipswich. “I hike a lot, but I don’t hike alone any more. I’m a little concerned.”

Skidmore said she has seen what she believes is a mountain lion two times in the past two years. 

“I’m confident it was a very big cat,” said Skidmore. “That’s what I saw, and several people in town have seen it too.”

Dealing with alleged mountain lion sightings is nothing new for NH Fish and Game biologist Patrick Tate, who said Wednesday morning that it is highly unlikely that people in the Greenville/New Ipswich area are seeing an actual mountain lion.

“I receive reports of mountain lion sightings on a weekly basis,” said Tate. “If we went by the reported sightings, I would say that mountain lions are overpopulating the area.”

The trouble with confirming or denying a mountain lion sighting, according to Tate, is that oftentimes people have no physical proof of the sighting.

Many who have allegedly seen a mountain lion have not been able to get the animal on photo or video, nor have they spotted tracks, scat, or other pieces of evidence that could provide Fish and Game with a DNA sample. 

Most commonly, Tate said photographic evidence given to NH Fish and Game shows the animal in question to be a bobcat or a domestic cat, although he also gets photos of actual mountain lions that are quickly debunked as they have been shared all over the internet. 

“There is no indication or evidence of mountain lions in New Hampshire,” said Tate. “There have been some credible people that have said they saw one, but there still is no evidence.”

Tate said there was confirmation of a mountain lion being in the area back in 2011 – it was eventually struck and killed in Connecticut after being sighted in Canada, New York, and elsewhere in the North East – but it appeared that the animal had left the South Dakota area in search of a mate. 

Evidence of a mountain lion also appeared near the Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts in the 1990s, according to Tate. 

“One neat thing about mountain lions is they leave physical evidence as it goes,” said Tate, who said in addition to doing an autopsy on the animal, biologists also uncovered tracks and other physical evidence of the mountain lion’s journey to the eastern part of the country.

Tate said the eastern mountain lion is believed to have gone extinct due to massive deforestation in the area back in the 1800s that led to a habitat change for the animal. Current conditions in New Hampshire would support a mountain lion, according to Tate, as forests have returned, allowing for prey species to become more prevalent. 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.