NORWAY — When Randy Olson wanted to find out what wildlife lurked in the woods behind his Waterford Road home in Norway, he didn’t think it would spark a debate on Facebook about what it might be.
Olson installed a game camera on Sept. 6, about a week after the family cat went missing. The first images the camera sent to his phone were nothing out of the ordinary – a young deer and a fox. Then, on September 10, he tapped on his phone screen to see a big cat slithering its way along a stone wall late at night.
He posted the image on a Maine wildlife page on Facebook and a debate was sparked. What kind of cat was it?
Olson posted that he believed it was a mountain lion. Many accepted. Others said it was a bobcat, citing features such as the shape of its ears or what appeared to be mottled markings on its front paw. Some claimed it must be a lynx, and many considered it a domestic cat.
Commentators found many disagreements. What some were saying was obviously a long tail that appeared to others as short, or even not visible. At least one person said young and adolescent lions may have patchy markings similar to bobcats.
“I don’t see a tail,” one poster wrote in the comments section. Another helpfully described her appearance, suggesting she lightened the image and the former later exclaimed, “I see her now!”
Another couldn’t be convinced, writing “There’s no tail, Bobcat.” Three posters insisted they could see a long tail, although another brightened the image and agreed there was no tail, adding “…Dark spot on it is [sic] the ass is the end [sic] bobcat tail.
The person who said she couldn’t see any tails then posted, “Maybe a picture of deer and outdoors,” which ended responses to her opinion.
After a few people asked for a reference that would help measure the cat’s size, Olson accepted a photo showing the main part of the stone wall to be 18 inches.
The Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife website doesn’t list any identifying traits for cougar sightings, but according to Wikipedia, an adult eastern cougar measures 24 to 36 inches at the shoulder. The weight of males averages between 120 and 220 pounds while females range between 60 and 140 pounds.
Wikipedia states that adult bobcats can weigh anywhere from 8.8 to 40 pounds and stand between 12 and 24 inches at the shoulder. The largest bobcat on record was a 60-pound male hit by a vehicle in New Hampshire in 2012.
Several posters discussed what state wildlife officials might say about the possibility of a mountain lion sighting in Oxford Hills.
“I had one on camera in Porter while baiting bears,” one commented. “When we spoke with the manager, he said there were no denied lions in Maine. They cannot report it as a Maine listed species due to the lack of a “breeding population” in its own terms. To be listed as a native species, it must be a sustainable breeding population.
Another wrote that “logging, hunting, recreation and construction will all be impacted” if the existence of lions were reported in Maine. “A retired goalkeeper told me this 20 years ago.”
Posters claimed to have seen them across the state from 33 years ago (Hiram) until last week in Bangor. In Oxford County, Canton and Bethel have been listed more than once as places where mountain lions have been spotted, along with Oxford, Norway and Woodstock.
The conversation got out of hand, as all internet debates will eventually do, when someone said they heard a wolf calling at The Forks earlier this summer.
A number of people argued over the date, which is recorded in the European format. A handful said that since he read 10/9/2022, it must be a hoax, because that date hasn’t happened yet. A few posters attempted to explain different date and time formats, even defending the original poster’s choices: “Maybe this person chose to do this [day, month year format] …. Just because it’s not used here normally, like in Europe, doesn’t mean it can’t happen that way here.
Olson told the Democratic Announcer that he reported the image to Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and after a few days he received a reminder from Deputy Regional Biologist Joshua Matijas, who is based at Maine Warden’s Southwest Division. Service to Gray.
“He told me they were getting a lot of sighting reports,” he said. “He said it was probably something else.
“A few days before my cat disappeared, I saw him sitting on the roof of the car, which he had never done. He must have sensed some kind of danger.
In addition to the nighttime image from his game camera, Olson said his neighbor and cousin saw a similar-looking animal with a smooth coat and muscular shoulders and hips, and also heard a strange cry a night that didn’t sound like online audio. of a bobcat call.
The Democratic announcer reached out to Matijas for comment, but as of press time had not heard from him. The Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Rare Mammal Identification webpage offers this information on possible mountain lions in Maine:
“Cougars have disappeared from much of their historic range in eastern North America. The last cougar killed in Maine was in Somerset County on the Maine-Quebec border in 1938. More recently, a 3-year-old male cougar from the Black Hills of South Dakota was struck and killed by a vehicle in Milford, Connecticut in 2011. (a distance of >2,000 km) Cougars have been sporadically documented in eastern Canada from known mortalities (3 cougars) or DNA (17 cougars) in Quebec from 1992 to 2011. The Department receives possible sightings of cougars each year, but most lack physical evidence. see a cougar or other evidence of a cougar (eg, tracks, droppings), take photos, and contact a regional wildlife biologist.
A number of people have expressed their condolences to Olson for the loss of his cat.
The Facebook page admin cut off comments after 366 posts were posted.
Olson always checks his camera for wildlife sightings. More recently he has seen a possum and a pine marten, but no repeat visits from the big cat to date.
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