Friday, December 2, 2005

Adirondack Mountain Lions, Panthers, Pumas, and Cougars Oh My!

There is perhaps no wildlife question in the Adirondack Region that raises so many anti-government / anti-DEC hackles as the question of whether or not there are mountain lions (a.ka. cougars, pumas, panthers, catamounts) in them thar woods. People actually get angry… figuring that them city folk in the DEC just don’t know what they’re talking about, they don’t believe the locals, or they are hiding the fact that the big cats are around.

According to State wildlife officials the last verified sighting of a cougar, or mountain lion, was more than one hundred years ago although occasionally reports of sightings surface from experienced outdoors people. NY State Wildlife Pathologist Ward Stone on his In Our Backyardradio program (on WAMC) noted this week that there is no solid scientific evidence that the cats are here. He did however say, like most DEC people, that it is possible that they might be.

Today, the Oneonta Daily Star is offering the following from John Lutz, co-founder of the Eastern Puma Research Network:

I’d like to set the record straight … there are definitely WILD big cats in the Empire State. The majority of WILD mountain lions are in the Adirondack Park Region, but smaller populations survive in the Catskills & Finger Lake Regions.

He cites more than 900 sightings “from credible witnesses with backgrounds in forestry, law enforcement and wildlife.” Apparently he doesn’t understand the variability and unreliability of eyewitness accounts.

We believe that there may be a very small population in the Adirondacks but without a combination of proof – DNA from scat, a photo from a reliable source, an undeniable track cast, or a dead animal – any reasonable person who accepts the scientific method simply has to say – maybe, we just don’t know.

Until we know for sure, we offer for your reading pleasure, a bobcat story:

In 1912, Louis Napolean Beach was employed at a livery stable in Riverside (now Raparius) and was driving a pair of horses hitched to a light wagon to Hooper’s Garnet Mine one late Friday afternoon (Hooper’s mine is now abandoned and located just off Thirteenth Lake Road in North River). As he passed under a large pine tree he heard a rustling above and a bobcat leaped into the back of his wagon. Beach hit the cat with the butt end of his horsewhip, only enraging it and spooking the horses, which bolted. With the wagon thundering down the road the cat clawed and bit Beach leaving several ugly wounds before it was thrown from the wagon when the horses made a sudden jump to one side of the road. The horses kept running toward the village of Garnet and into the barnyard of R. J. Bennett where they stopped so quickly that Beach was thrown from the wagon, relatively unhurt.

John Warren

John Warren

John Warren founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and oversees the day-to-day operations of the site in addition to editing The New York History Blog.

He has worked in media for 30 years as a print journalist, a documentary television producer, and now in new media. He's on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and is the author of two books of regional history.

John's weekly Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report airs across the Adirondack North Country Region on the North Country Public Radio network.

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  19. jfk says:

    i seen a dead north american hyanea in the aderondecks while camping than looked it up on the internet and was in shock its been believed to be extenct, went back and it was gone

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