Mainers love a good mountain lion mystery.
Fact is, many folks will tell you there’s no mystery at all: They believe — “know” is the word they’ll use — that mountain lions walk among us.
Mountain lion in North Waldoboro? (Photo by Edwin Ecker Jr.)
Experts have softened their stance on the existence of the big cats over the years, and after a cougar walked halfway across the country before getting hit by a car in Connecticut three years ago, the Maine biologist who tracks mountain lion reports said that incident had changed the opinions of many.
“I’m no longer going to operate under the assumption that for the known cougar populations that we have in the United States, Maine is too far away for an animal to naturally disperse,” Wally Jakubas of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said at the time.
Mainers have been reporting mountain lion sightings for years. Some of those “cougars” turn out to be bobcats. Others are dogs. Even large housecats have been mistaken for mountain lions over the years.
This morning, I’ve got another report to pass along. Reader Edwin Ecker Jr. reached out via email over the weekend with his tale.
And unlike many who say they’ve seen a mountain lion, Ecker has photographs to prove — or disprove — his case.
“These pics were taken behind my home in North Waldoboro on Little Medomak Pond on Route 220,” Ecker said in the email. “There are always deer in this area and I was scouting for this year’s hunt.
“My yard is fenced in for my dogs and there has always been a beaten path around the fence but I wasn’t sure what caused the path because there were never any deer tracks found,” he wrote. “There are a few small farms in the area with goats, sheep and chickens, a perfect environment for a cougar, along with the normal herd of deer, raccoon, skunk, fisher, coyote, etc.”
Ecker said he has hunted the Maine woods for 50 years, and had always heard others say they’d seen cougars. He’d never seen any evidence.
Until last Monday, when he captured photos of a large animal on his trail camera.
“I have it set to take a still shot every 10 seconds(I wish I had had it on video) but anyway, if you play the still shots back and forth you can plainly see the long tail with a black tip in all but the last two shots,” he wrote.
A 24-inch fly swatter stuck in the ground near where the animal stood helps gives some perspective. (Edwin Ecker Jr. photo)
“The cougar must have had it’s head to the ground in stalking mode as the area was peppered with fresh doe and buck tracks,” Ecker wrote.
“The first two shots are of the cougar going from right to left which give you the best look of the tail,” he wrote. “The next four shots after ten minutes off camera are of the cougar going from left to right towards my back yard on the beaten path I spoke of.”
On Monday, I emailed the photos to Jakubas, who said he couldn’t find enough evidence to confirm a cougar in the photos. The Ecker photos were included in one of two emails I sent to him — another came from a reader in Scarborough who also thought she’d seen a mountain lion (more on that case tomorrow).
Feline footprint in the mud. (Edwin Ecker Jr. photo)
“This one is tougher because of picture quality,” Jakubas wrote, referring to the Ecker photos. “I did not see a large tail. In one picture I could slightly make out the face of the animal, and it looked like a bobcat.”
Ecker also sent along a couple of other photos you might be interested in. The first shows a 24-inch fly swatter, which he stuck into the ground to help viewers tell how large the animal in the other photos might be. The second is of what he calls feline footprints in the area of the trail camera.
Jakubas is the expert, and I won’t doubt his conclusion. But as we Mainers know, many aren’t willing to let a biologist’s opinion go unchallenged, especially when it comes to the issue of mountain lions in the Pine Tree State.
I will, however, say that when I flipped rapidly from the first photo in the sequence to the second, I saw what looked to be a long tail disappear from the frame.
Conclusive? No. But interesting? You bet.
So look at the photos, and tell us: What do you see?