Reporting Eastern Cougar & Wolf Sightings
For decades, the presence of eastern cougar (Felis concolor couguar) in Maine and New Brunswick has been debated among biologists and the public. The eastern cougar was placed on the endangered species list, but its status is unknown. Due to the lack of evidence in the past, biologists are now wondering if there was ever a subspecies of eastern cougar or maybe that there was just an eastern population of cougar (same species as found in the west). Taxonomically biologists now refer to eastern cougar as cougar (Felis concolor).
Since the mid 1970’s to the present day there have been several hundred reported sightings. In addition, there are a considerable amount of sightings that have not been reported.
The last confirmed report of a cougar in New Brunswick was in 1932. A hunter in Kent County shot a cougar while it was resting in a tree. Furthermore, the last confirmed report of a cougar in Eastern Canada was in 1938. A large tawny colored cat (suspected to be a cougar) was trapped in Quebec near the Maine border. Since then there have been numerous reported sightings, but the lack of substantial evidence questions the existence of this animal in our forests.
The cougar can be described as being 6-9 feet (1.8-2.7 m) in length (from nose to tip of tail), 100-150 pounds (45.5-68.2 kg) and a shoulder height of 26-30 inches (65-75 cm). The track is large (4 inches (10 cm) in width) and resembles a large bobcat or lynx track. Cougars are typically most active at night and are tawny brown to gray in color.
Each year there are approximately 40 reported sightings of cougar. The most common sightings are from cars or while people are walking. The observer typically sees a large cat-size animal jump out of the woods and run across the road. The length of time the animal is in the field of view is normally for a few seconds.
When people believe they have seen a cougar one of the questions to ask is: "what color was the animal that you saw?" If the individual states the animal they saw was dark brown or black, the "red flags" go up to game officials.
There has never been a reported black cougar in North America. There are a number of animals that can be confused as being a "black" cat. There are fisher (Martes pennanti), dark colored coyotes (Canis latrans), black bears (Ursus americanus) and not to mention domestic dogs and cats. All of these when glanced at could resemble a large dark-colored cat.
Although the existence of cougar looks uncertain, there have been a few convincing stories and some credible evidence in both Maine and New Brunswick that officials investigated.
If a cougar is found, will be several questions that have to be addressed. DNA testing will have to be completed to determine if the animal is an actual eastern cougar or an escaped western cougar. The evidence will also allow us to determine if the cougars are part of an eastern population of cougar. Until we get the evidence that is necessary to confirm cougars, the biologists and the public will continue to debate the status of cougar in Maine and New Brunswick.
Another problem that is surfacing regarding reporting endangered or strange wildlife is the concern that officials or groups will want special restrictions on the forests, hunting or trapping. Or that the person reporting will be considered somewhat a strange loon. This has proven out a number of recent attempts by so called wildlife groups to stop trapping and other harvesting in Maine, along with restrictions on timber cutting. I would point out that things must be going well if the wildlife is able to sustain itself currently, so why would special protections be required? This is another debate that will not be resolved any time soon. I for one side with Maine Trappers, SAM and others, all can co-exist in our forests and woods. But I would ask you to report any sightings or findings.