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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

linda Mccracken has become a friend of this blog........A long time New Hampshire resident, Linda has been investigating alleged Puma sightings across New England and New York State for years.........She is 100% certain that there has been a breeding population of the big Cats in the Northeast perhaps going back as far as the 1950's(perhaps they never were fully extirpated from the region per Linda)..........Linda offers her perspective on the "cat" that most say was a bobcat,,,spotted last week in upstate New York(Pleasantville),,,,,,,,,,Linda absolutely believes that the Regional Game and Fish people know that Pumas exist on the landscape despite their public stance that Pumas are currently absent from our Eastern Forests.........Linda provides her email address and encourages those who feel they have seen Pumas to contact her about those sightings and join her in her quest to prove that Pumas are not "ghost cats" in the Northeast

Having read the story about the cougar seen in Pleasantville, NY last week that was deemed a "bobcat", I E-mailed some notes to Rick Meril. He asked me to write a report about my opinions and what is happening in the northeast, particularly New Hampshire.

First, I do not think the cougar sighting in Pleasantville, NY was a bobcat because I have a friend who lived near there. She normally had deer in her backyard, but one day she looked out the window to see a mountain lion with a big long tail walking quietly in the grass near the edge of her woods where the deer usually hang out.

Second, I collect cougar sightings in New Hampshire, but inadvertently, I've also collected 41 cougar sightings in New York State. Although most were in the Finger Lakes area, some were pretty close to New York city (probably the cats were following the Hudson River south from the Adirondacks).
Third, I checked Pleasantville, NY on Google Earth. It is surrounded on three sides by power lines. In my own research, New England cougars seem to travel via three different routes: by following rivers, power lines or trails (deer, hiking, rail trails or RV/snowmobile trails). My belief is that cougars use these same routes to avoid people, to travel long distances quickly or to hide or disperse for food as other animals use them, too. Pleasantville, NY has power lines to the west, north and east.
As for nearby four-lane highways, cougars in NH and RI have had no trouble crossing highways as they jump high and run fast. In 2005, a cougar sat next to a NH Rt. 89 exit just watching the traffic go by!

In New Hampshire, 90-95% of my friends had seen cougars over the years, several more than once. One friend saw six cougars in six months along the same state highway located in four different towns 20 miles apart. The sightings were not the same cougar as all but two were different colors, sizes, ages and health (one young cat was emaciated and starving). Five cougars in twenty miles in a six month period is a lot of cougars!

This is one reason I do not believe the government's claim that mountain lions are extinct and not here. This is why I'm trying to prove that they are here. I'm concerned that officials will claim that future cougar sightings are because of the Rewilding program.

None of my "proof", (sightings, tracks, scrapes, etc.) has been confirmed by NH Fish & Game, but officials also do not come out to check my data, including tracks, as they "have no money" and seem to be sure there are no cougars here. I've sent out two scat samples, but both came back as canine (I'm trying).

What I do have for proof is a huge database of more than 800 sightings over 80 years with locations, dates, behaviors, and other sortable categories. Much of this data is plotted out on maps so that patterns now exist of where cougars used to be (SW and northern NH) and where they exist presently, everywhere there are deer, including a few sightings in cities like Concord, Manchester, Portsmouth and Nashua.

Although most people observe the big cats crossing the road, a field or a backyard, my own face to face encounter happened very differently less than two miles from my house in 2010. I heard a loud crashing in the trees and bushes. Thinking it was a bear walking in the woods on the side of my dirt road, I was shocked to see the face of a cougar running at full speed out of the trees and across the two dirt tracks. The cougar's belly was near the ground as it was running so fast and it hissed twice at whatever it was chasing making a loud sound like "hiss-sah". Mesmerized by the dark brown spot on its long tail, I watched as the long sandy beige cat used the tail like a lever, swinging the it to the right to keep its balance as the long mountain lion turned left onto a snowmobile trail.  I had a camera in my hand, but was too shocked to click the button. Then I heard more crashing in the bushes and two very confused deer came out, looked towards where the cougar had disappeared, then at me, and then went in the opposite direction down the dirt road.

The location was perfect habitat with wild fields, trees, bushes, open trails for vehicles and snowmobiles plus a creek and a pond! New Hampshire is often diverse like this and has many granite ledges, often facing south, as well as a good supply of deer, turkeys, beaver plus other animals. The habitat is ideal for a large predator!

Last week the local police told me of a 1999 sighting in the same area as my sighting. The policeman had been out searching for marijauna plants when he saw the cat lying across a dirt road. It looked like it was hunting something, but then looked up at him and jumped into the bog's cattails.
Hunters have also seen the cougars or their tracks. One man the next town over fell asleep sitting with his back against a tree while waiting for a deer. When he awoke with his gun in his lap, there were large 4" cat tracks in the snow near his boots where a cougar had evidently sniffed his boots as he slept. This was in 2007.

This week, I spoke with a woman who heard her cat crying, looked out the window at her pet cat up on the BBQ with the largest cat she'd ever seen down on the deck. She said it looked like a lion, but she didn't think twice about protecting her cat. She grabbed a broom, opened the door, ran outside and growled at the cat to challenge it and swept it off the porch with the broom. Surprised, the mountain lion ran down the steps and away. This was in the year 2000. Tracks were seen nearby in 2010.

In five years, I've collected over 800 sightings of big cats with long tails in New Hampshire. About half of these were collected by NH Fish & Game, but they say none of the reports are confirmed sightings.

Since officials often don't come when called, I do not believe they want to confirm any sightings.
My town has had over two dozen sightings since the 1980s plus tracks, scat, scrapes and dead pets near some of the times and places when cougars were seen. The town south of us has had regular sightings since the 1940s and the town north of us since the 1930s.
One story was really interesting. Two hunters got caught in the Hurricane of 1938 (as weather forecasts then weren't what they are today). The hunters sought out a little hunting cabin on the side of a mountain. It wasn't much, but it had a roof, a door, two cots and two open windows. In the middle of the night, as the winds and rains became horrendous, a mountain lion, also looking for shelter, jumped through the window opening, landed on the floor between the two cots, looked at each of the men and leaped out the window again! It evidently thought the hurricane preferable to humans.
Some say these people are just telling stories, but hunters, police, artists and animal lovers know the difference between a large cat with a long tail and a bobcat, dog or raccoon. These are the animals that officials have tried to tell the people that they actually saw. Yes, a few city folk may get confused, but not 800 people over 80 years.

My statistics show that cougars historically have been in the southwest and north of New Hampshire for a full 80 years, but have slowly spread elsewhere throughout the state. By the 1980s, there were reports of them in every county in the state. Originally, there were 3-20 sightings per decade, but since the year 2000, there have been hundreds of sightings! In my county alone, there were 114 sightings and/or tracks in the decade of the 2000s. Since 2010, there have been 85 sightings and/or tracks in just over a two year period!

My opinion is that wherever you have deer in your backyard, you may also have cougars. They will most likely not be seen unless you just happen to look out your window at the right time or have a pet that alerts you.
Deer, fawns, sheep and goats have been seen in various places throughout the state cached in trees. What does that sound like to you? I was told it was fishers. I don't think they are strong enough to haul a complete deer or sheep carcass into a tree.
As for a breeding population, my sighting statistics have been mapped to certain mountains and waterways that have had continuous evidence of sightings for decades, which, to me, proves that there is a breeding population. The first kittens were reported in the 1970s, but last year there were a half dozen reports of dens on private property or kittens and/or adolescents with or without spots and/or their mother that were also observed. To a person, no one will allow anyone access to the den sites as they are protecting the cats!

Personally, I believe that the officials know the mountain lions are here. Rumors have it that they have actually released mountain lions in PA and NY to take care of the overpopulation of deer. I have not heard anything like that here, but the increase in sightings does seem to indicate either an increase in cats or a lack of fear. Both make sense.

Puma in Nebraska

One hundred years ago, New Hampshire was 20% forested and 80% agricultural. Cats were killed on sight to protect livestock. My belief is that mother cats told their young to keep away from humans and hid out in inaccessible areas. There are plenty of inaccessible areas in New Hampshire including two near my house that have not been touched since the Native Americans lived here 500 years ago.
Currently, 80% of New Hampshire is forested and 20% has human habitation. I've been told that it is too forested, and that there is not enough edge territory for deer to attract cougars, but we have over 6,000 miles of snowmobile trails, and many hiking trails like the Appalachian trail and the 50 mile Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway trail (where one driveway that crosses the trail has had four sightings of mountain lions). The cats can travel sight unseen anywhere they want to go in this state to find prey.
The fact that they are now seen so often means that there are now many more cats or they have lost their fear of people. I know for a fact they are not scared of us. Half a mile south of my house, one cougar crossed the road in front of a car, then sat down to stare at the driver while he stopped to stare at the mountain lion! Another followed a woman in the woods. I hope it was out of curiosity.
If there are any professionals out there who would like to help me get proof of the big cats' presence, I would really appreciate it! The last sighting locally was in mid-December where a cougar was "doing something" in a ditch by the side of the road near where deer congregate around 4 AM in a city of 23,000 people.

In the past two weeks, I've seen tracks twice in snow that had melted and then refrozen. The tracks were inconclusive being 7"x7", but they were round, the stride was 24" and the tracks went in a direct line like a feline.

A power line parallels this highway and there have been at least 6 cougar sightings along this east-west power line within 15 miles. The north-south road which is where I live is highly traveled and has had 18 sightings (not including tracks) in a 16 mile area plus 3 sightings that were counted above that connect this road to the above power line.

puma on trailcam in Missouri

Where else can you get such a dense area of sightings for study? If anyone would really like to help in a scientific way, please contact me at

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