What’s in the Woods? Part 2 

Wayne Harvey

In Part One of our Special Report What’s in the Woods? We heard from experts who disagree if Wolves are currently in Maine.In all corners of our state, there have been reports of people seeing or having run ins with cougars, or mountain lions, in recent years.From a mother in Winslow who says she saw one in a subdivision to a sighting in Owls Head, the reports keep coming in…But they all are found to be something else by state officials…Much like with wolves, there are many disagreements about the existence of cougars in Maine.One man from Sherman says no matter what he’s told, he’s certain of what he saw on a February morning five years ago.”I come around this little turn, standing right in the middle of the road was this big cat. It was brown, stood about three and a half feet tall, was about seven feet long and I looked at that, and it takes a minute for your brain to register something you haven’t seen, like ‘That’s a Cougar’ “, said Todd Young.It had snowed during the night, so once the initial surprise was gone, Young, who was heading to get a load of logs, wanted to get a closer look. “I pulled up where he was and got out and in our trucks we carry tape measures and I measured his track and it measured out just slightly over four and a half inches from it’s widest point, so it was a pretty good sized cat. I would say he’d go around 120 pounds.”This wasn’t a one time experience, and that makes him believe there is a population of cougars in the area. “The following day, I was coming back out loaded and I looked in the woods and I see a smaller one which I would guesstimate approximately 60-65 pounds. She would have been, I assume it was a female, about five and a half six feet long, but these cats I’ve seen these tracks in further in, further out. They have a big circle they travel so it’s pretty hard to narrow down where their den would be, where they’d live, but I’d assume it’s in the area some place.”But Dr. Dan Harrison, a wildlife ecology professor at the University of Maine, says historically, Maine was never really cougar territory. “The closest viable population is over 1000 miles away so individual cougars yes, there are quite a number of cougars in captivity, there have been records of captive cougars that have been released by their owners and documented wandering in the state of Maine, but in terms of a viable population of cougars, I’m very, very skeptical about that.”He’s skeptical because there are so many reports of seeing the cat, and no other proof to go along with those sightings. “In places where there are large viable cougar populations, people seldom see cougars, but they always see their sign. Their sign is very identifiable and it’s very distinctive and there’s lots of sign. A few sightings in Maine over the many, many years. We’ve had lots of sightings and no sign.”Even though he’s certain that what he saw was a cougar, Young never reported his sighting to any park ranger, game warden, or biologist. “I didn’t think they’d take me seriously now if I’d had one with me and they’d seen it actually on the road, they probably would have believed it, but for me to tell them, it’s just like ‘Yeah ok whatever’ “”We have never seen any evidence suggesting a viable population of wolves or Eastern cougars in Maine” said Dr. Harrison. ” And there’s also no evidence of other Northeastern states which have looked far and wide for the same species.”If you think you’ve seen a cougar or wolf, you should contact the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department.John Glowa of the Maine Wolf Coalition would like you to contact his organization as well about any wolf sightings, at