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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Take the panther poll

Earlier this week, I posted on Adirondack Almanack an article about mountain lions. It includes a photo of a plaster cast of a paw print sent me by Don Leadley, a veteran outdoorsman. Leadley says he tracked the beast for about a mile near his home in Lake Pleasant.

Paw print found by Don Leadley near Lake Pleasant.

Paw print found by Don Leadley near Lake Pleasant.

Do mountain lions exist in the Adirondacks? That’s the question raised by the article.

It’s also the question raised in a new website created by the Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

The Wild Center’s site, which goes live today, includes video from two motorists who saw a mountain lion in Russell, just north of the Park, and from Ken Kogut, a state wildlife biologist who pooh-poohs the idea that the big cats are living in the Adirondacks.

Kogut does not mention in the video that he himself once saw a mountain lion bounding across a road. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, however, insists that any mountain lion seen in the region must have been a former pet that was released by or escaped from its owner. Yet DEC says the vast majority of “sightings” are cases of mistaken identity.

Mountain lions—also known as cougars, pumas, or panthers—supposedly were extirpated from the Adirondacks a century ago, but rumors persist that a remnant population remains here.

The Wild Center’s website contains several other cool features, including a map showing reported cougar sightings in the Park, by decade; photos and descriptions of cougar sign; and audio of the cat’s sounds.

It also contains a reader poll.

Do you think mountain lions exist in the Adirondacks? Now you can register your opinion.

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

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9 Responses

  1. Shane says:

    Just like the Timber wolf, the Mountain Lion is a mis-identification. Those lions that people have seen, taking plaster casts of tracks of, will eventually (one day) be shot, or killed by a car, and will end up being confirmed (by DNA) as released cats that someone no longer wanted. There is no way for a mountain lion to re-introduce itself to the ADK park. The timber wolf on the other hand has a great chance. With the Moose now back in the territory, and the wolf population just across the river, it wont be long before the wolf self-reintroduces (hopefully). If there were a viable population of cats here now, we would know about it!

  2. Lee says:

    My brother lives in Cranberry Lake. A few years ago he claims to have seen a mountain lion there. He too has a plaster cast of the print.

  3. Dave says:

    To many reputable people seeing things that they say are panthers(Mt Lions) for all of them to be mistaken. Some of these people have lived in the Adirondack Mts. all their lives and know the different animals that live here.

  4. Tom says:

    If I had come across the tracks shown in Mr. Leadley’s photo I wouldn’t have thought twice about it… bear, front foot. Just doesn’t look right for a big (very big if those are inches on the ruler) cat.

  5. Luke says:

    Tom:

    I’m no tracker, by any stretch, but if it were a bear front foot, wouldn’t you expect the claw imprints to be visible? At least, some of them? And with bear prints, the “big toe” tends to be the longest, largest toe, with the other toes smaller, meaning they decline in size moving away from the inside “big toe.” Cat tracks tend to be more rounded, with the middle toe protruding farther than the toes around it.

    It is unlikely that any track in the wild will be perfect, and the claws could have landed on dry dirt or stone. Also, it does look like there could have been two tracks, one overlaying the other (which could be another argument for a cat). But the picture just isn’t a convincing bear track to me.

    And just my point of view – if there are “released” mountain lions in the ADK park, there are mountain lions in the ADK park. Discussion as to whether it is a self-sustaining community, or whether it came about by reintroduction (natural or assisted), is a different discussion. Certainly the map of panther sightings shows a growing number of sitings over the years, across a greater range of territory.

  6. Paul says:

    In areas where there is a “known” small population of this animal how often are they seen? As I understand it there are panthers in the Florida Everglades, how often are they seen, hit by cars, etc.

    The fact that some of these recent “sightings” have been proven to be hoaxes it is hard to deal with this logically. For example last fall someone forwarded a photo to me that was supposedly a cat seen in the Adirondacks (this had circulated from some pretty smart folks). It took me about 1 minute on Google to find the photo that had been shot many years ago in Oklahoma (or someplace out west) that had been cropped and doctored.

  7. KR says:

    Camping along the fihsing trail to Big Eddy on the West Branch 2 weeks ago- awoke to something rubbing on my tent but no animal sound, very quite. Then had to get up to go to the bathroom. Stuck my head out fo my tent to find a set of green eyes shining back at me from about 50 feet away in the edge of the woods. Eyes seemed to be pretty far apart for a bobcat, about 6 to 8 inches. Animal remained out fo the view of my light but was not frightened by my apearence or even my voice as I explained to him that I would be going to the other side of camp to pee. It was pitch black so all I saw was the reflection of his eyes. About 2-1/2 to 3 feet off the ground and about 6 to 8 inches apart. When I spoke to him he sniffed the ground, I heard nothing but saw the eyes go towards the ground. There were no tracks in the morning but the ground was covvered with leaves etc and I’m no tracker. First thought was a bobcat but cougar would be more interesting story. Note that we had a deer visit us earlier in the evening- he had walked right near my tent on the side where the animal was rubbing the side of my tent as I awoke. I am keeping a camera with strong flash at my side as I sleep in my tent from now on. Any thoughts?

  8. Eastern cougar extinct, feds say @ says:

    […] Click here to go to the Wild Center website. […]

  9. BF says:

    Whether there is a self-sustaining population of cougars in the Adirondacks remains to be proven. But lions passing through is a reality. And not just in the Adirondacks! Last August in Sabael, my neighbor captured the image of a “large cat with a very long” tail on her trail cam. At the time stamp of that photo – my two indoor cats went into alert mode and jumped to the windows staring into the woods behind my cabin, in the same direction as she reported the cat had been moving. The long tail part rules out bobcat. No disputing that something big and feline moved through the area at 9:30 p.m. that night. Furthermore, I had eye-to-eye “contact” with an actual cougar on my property south of Ithaca NY about 7 years ago. It came out of the hedgerow about 75 yards from where I was mowing. We eyed each other carefully, then it sauntered — as only big cats move — down the side of my pond and out of sight. Big cat, round ears, brown snout, long tail. I’m familiar with the local bobcats, and I sure know the difference between a bobcat and a cougar. The cat I saw was most definitely not a bobcat. And if you’re interested, it came out of the hedgerow along a well worn deer track. Several years later I discovered cougar tracks along the side of my road for a distance of about 2/10 of mile, ending when they crossed into the neighbors yard. Paw print measured at 3.5-4″ wide (as big as my hand, no claw marks) with a significantly long stride (I have photos). So let me just end by stating two things: 1) Why would anyone lie about seeing a cougar? It’s pretty dang scary and if they’re hanging around — you’d want other people to be aware, right? and 2) I’m tired of the DEC claiming there are no cougars in New York. Please – it’s time to “man up” and admit that they’ve been seen, tracked, measured, and photographed. And although they may have moved along — they have been and will continue to be around; wild, released, or visiting from another state/country. I’m a believer.

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