Maine Ice Fishers Spot Big Cat Biologists Say Could Be A Mountain Lion

Mar 14, 2019

Last Friday, four friends were ice fishing on a back country pond in the Jackman area. 

Courtesy of Yule Hanson

State and federal scientists are reviewing the videos, as well as still pictures of what appear to be the animal's tracks.
Credit Sally Kwan

Yule Hanson, who grew up and owns a camp there, says the big cat popped out of the woods and sauntered across a pond, about 300 yards away. He and another member of the party managed to take short — although grainy — videos of the animal. 

"Oh yeah it's a mountain lion," says one member of the party.

"Look at that tail," says another.

 

The long tail mentioned in the video is important, because that would distinguish the animal from a lynx or bobcat, which have short tails.

State and federal scientists are reviewing the videos, as well as still pictures of what appear to be the animal's tracks.

"This situation is very much on our radar," says Scott McLellan, a biologist with Maine's Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Service. 

Courtesy of Ken Boyington

He and other biologists say the evidence they've seen is, so far, inconclusive, but credible enough that they aren't dismissing it.

"It does appear cat-like for sure,” he says. "But there's some things that aren't exactly making sense with this story. So we're going to investigate this further."

The species, while robust in the west, has not been definitively documented in Maine since one was killed here in 1938.

Last year, the so-called "Eastern Cougar" was removed from the federal endangered species list after it was determined it was not genetically distinct from the western version, and that there was no viable breeding population in the Northeast.

But the ice-fishing crew have no doubt about what they think they saw. Ken Boyington of Topsham says it was a special experience.

"Just seeing that majestic creature skulking across the lake,” he says. “It was in the clear wide open, so we were able to watch it for maybe 15 minutes or so."

State and federal scientists are reviewing the videos, as well as still pictures of what appear to be the animal's tracks.
Credit Sally Kwan

The observers say the animal was spotted about two miles from CMP's proposed route for a controversial transmission line that would bring electricity from Canada to Massachusetts customers. But wildlife officials say even if the sighting is substantiated, there is no state or federal law that would come into play.

State wildlife biologist McClellan says he will try to interview the observers, and he will set bait and cameras in the area in an effort to get photos or collect scat or fur, which would provide the most conclusive evidence of all — DNA.

Updated 2:16 p.m. March 14, 2019 - An original version of this post credited photos incorrectly.