Mountain lion still a mythical creature in area
BY SCOTT MONROE
Sorry, but it wasn’t a mountain lion.
That’s the determination state officials made Thursday of a sample of feces, known as scat, found June 8 on Riggs Brook Lane in northern Augusta.
In fact, genetic testing found the scat belonged to the Canidae family of animals, which includes dogs, foxes, wolves and coyotes.
“It was probably a coyote,” said Wally Jakubas, mammal-group leader for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the agency’s point person on mountain lions.
The scat sample found in Augusta was reported just days before a report of a mountain lion sighting in Winslow.
Lin Stout is convinced she and her two sons encountered a mountain lion June 22 in their backyard off South Ridge Drive. Stout said they saw a long tail bobbing through ferns and brush and then the animal walked out in full view, watched a domestic cat that was in a nearby marsh area, and then silently leaped back into the woods after about 30 seconds.
Jakubas said Stout’s description of the animal seemed to fit that of a mountain lion, also known as a cougar.
But wildlife biologist Kendall Marden inspected the Stout property and found no conclusive evidence of a mountain lion. A crew of nearby house construction workers said they found a large paw-like print by the side of road a few days later, but Jakubas said the impression appeared to include two tracks and wasn’t conclusive.
State wildlife officials say there is no wild mountain-lion population in Maine and reports of the animals, when they’re legitimate, are of captive mountain lions that have been illegally released into the wild.
State officials also say that many people mistake other large wild animals, such as fisher cats and coyotes, for mountain lions.
Jakubas said he and other biologists at the department’s Bangor office weren’t that surprised by the results of the Augusta sample.
“In truth, this is what the experts say: It’s extremely difficult to determine a cougar scat from those of a coyote or a bear, given they’re about the same size,” he said. “The big thing is, I would have preferred to have some other evidence of this being from a cougar, like scratch marks or paw prints.”
Even so, the results don’t rule out the possibility that there’s a mountain lion roaming central Maine.
Jakubas said Thursday that he received separate report of mountain lion sighting from a woman, on June 10, near Tobey’s Market on Route 3 in Palermo. Jakubas said the woman had “a fairly accurate description of the animal.”
“I just thought it was interesting it was in the general vicinity (with Winslow and Augusta),” Jakubas said. “If you look at it, there’s a big wetland area connecting them.”