Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mountain Lions in Massachusetts? They Exist!

Last spring I had the opportunity to work with Dr. John Baker in taking a directed study course focusing on local conservation issues. After a few weeks of reading up on New England fauna in the region I became very interested in studying the potential re-introduction of mountain lions (Puma concolor couguar or "cougars" as they commonly call them in the Eastern U.S.) to Massachusetts. Recent confirmed sightings of mountain lions in the state of Massachusetts have indicated a return of the species once thought to be extinct in the region (although not officially confirmed by state agencies). The species was once abundant in the state and in New England which was once part of its home range.

Mountain lions, also known as cougars, panthers, wildcats, catamounts, and pumas, were believed to be extinct in New England by 1906 and in the eastern U.S. by the 1930’s. This was a direct result of overhunting, habitat loss, and a drastic decline in the white-tailed deer population. Over the last century however, a decline in forestry in the eastern U.S., the abandonment of agricultural lands in the region, and the restocking of the white-tailed deer population have created better suitable habitat for the species. It is not entirely clear if mountain lions sighted in the state have a territorial home range in the region or if they are only western U.S. or Canadian mountain lions that have strayed from their home range. A mountain lion killed in a motor vehicle accident in Connecticut was traced to have originated from as far away as South Dakota (the story can be found here).

The goal of my study was to use spatial data to map suitable habitat areas in the state of Massachusetts in which mountain lions may currently, or may one day persist, and to establish an estimation as to the population of mountain lions that may be sustained in these areas. Using geographic information systems (GIS) software (Clark has great GIS sources by the way!), I was able to map potential suitable habitat meeting certain criteria. I was able to determine that four possible habitat corridors existed in Massachusetts, and recent mountain lion sightings in some of these corridors confirmed their suitability. One of the corridors runs along the Central Massachusetts area, especially near protected lands in the Quabbin Reservoir area....and for some reason there seems to be a lot of mountain lion activity around the University Park area of Worcester...I'm not sure why, but watch out :) . Anyways, if anyone would like to find out more about the study feel free to leave a comment!

17 comments:

  1. My husband and I are outdoor enthusiasts and i trust his identification but I still cant believe he saw a mountain lion. If what you wrote about their reintroduction is true then i would be possible. The cougar was seen crossing Rte 56, Pommogussett Rd, approx 1.5 miles north of Rte 122A in Rutland, MA.

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  2. I really thought I saw a mountain lion in Stoughton, MA about 2 months ago. I saw something that was cat-like but far bigger than a cat. Today I saw an advertisement for a talk about Eastern Cougars nearby and when I googled "Eastern Cougars", I found photos of the animal I had seen in Stoughton. It was walking in the woods off the side of the road, in a residential area, near Ames Pond.

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    1. I was just outside smoking a cigarette, I heard rustling and a big cat came walking through my backyard in stoughton massachusetts, I jumped up and stomped and it ran through I still hear rustling in the leaves it looked like a mountain lion to me

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  3. My 11yo son is absolutely adamant he saw a mountain lion yesterday. It came out of the woods and jumped over a fence into an open field. It was on Ravine Rd in New Braintree near the Hardwick border. It was gone as quickly as it came, so I wasn't able to catch a glimpse to confirm. He later utilized the internet to confirm what he saw - and is very certain it wasn't a bob cat.

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  4. I very clearly saw a mountain lion this evening around 6:30 in an open field on land that adjoins the Harvard Forest in Petersham.

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  5. Back in June I saw a Mountain Lion crossing Chicopee St. in Granby around 7:30am as I was headed south just past the Granby Bow and Gun Club. It was tan in color with a long, lean build with large paws, cat face and most-importantly, a long tail. It moved quickly across the road in a full stride. This was not a Bobcat as others have told me that I must have seen. Since then, a friend of my wife stated she saw one on the Ludlow/Belchertown line as she was riding her bike. I think she said it was on Route 21. It is very cool knowing that others have seen them around.

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    1. My wife is adamant that she also saw a Mountain Lion in our yard today in Wilbraham, MA. We live just off Monson road near the intersection of Bolles Rd. and it was near the pond on our property. She described it as very large with a clearly LONG tail. Comparing pictures of a Bobcat and Mountain Lion, she was positive it was not a Bobcat. Looking on-line, I found that there were reports of a Mountain Lion being spotted in Hampden, MA, very near us this past May.

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  6. Some dear friends of mine recently told me of a story when they saw a mountain lion on their property some years ago. They own a tree nursery that is right off of rt. 133 in Boxford MA.

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  7. My teenage son says he saw one last night around 3:30am in our backyard near the intersection of 111 & 225 in Groton, MA. He was sure it had a long tail and was very big -- but it was a very dark night, so who knows. Evidently there have been two other sitings right around here but none recently -- one was ten years ago, one three years ago....

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  8. I recently saw a mountain lion in Framingham, MA. I was walking at 4 AM and I saw it come out of the woods on the road ahead of me. A car was approaching from behind me and it turned around and went back in the woods. It was large and had a long tail. It was in the agricultural part of town where there are lots of woods and open land. It was quite frightening and I'm afraid to walk at that time now.

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  9. We are located in North Brookfield, MA and actually had neighbors stop by last night to warn us there has been one spotted the past few days in the field on our road, and the police confirmed on the second sighting. Pretty cool and scary at the same time!

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  10. I Recently saw a mountain lion at 12:24pm on Sept. 17, 2013 in Milford, MA. It had the correct size, coloring and tail. It was headed into the woods near the route 85 exit off route 495 near Hopkinton. This location is fairly close to the Framingham post above for a sighting one week ago. I contacted police, cougar rewilding and cougar network to report the sighting.

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    1. I was talking to a neighbor in Framingham about a month later who said that she had also seen a mountain lion in the area!

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  11. I saw a mountain lion about a year and a half ago cross in front of a car in front of my house on Rt 62 in Princeton MA. It clearly had a feline face and a long tail and was very large. It was most definitely a mountain lion.

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  12. I live in Bridgewater, MA. Two weeks ago (November 2013) carpenters placed a particle board that had formerly been used in the construction of my three season room on the ground in my fenced in back yard. The next day my son and I noticed animal tracks across the board going in both directions. Four toes and a pad - three inches in diameter!!! I took pictures with a ruler in the shot to give scale. After doing research, I can affirm the tracks were left by a mountain lion!

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    1. Hi! My name is Kristen and I am a Bridgewater Triangle researcher. I have been tracking this thing since first reports started in July. Someone else SAW it just around the time you found your tracks. In September it was in the Carver's Pond area. Please! Message me on my facebook page. I am very interested! (And curious.) https://www.facebook.com/bridgewatertriangle

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  13. I live in Cummington, MA and I personally have had two (2) sightings, one of which was in Williamsburg and the other in Goshen. Both lions had crossed the road in front of my car. The most recent sighting was in January, 2013 at approximately 10:30 a.m. after a fresh snow fall. The large tauny colored cat with a very long tail gracefully ran across the highway within 50 feet or so of my car. These are very elusive animals but I know several people who have seen the big cats over the years...my husband was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to observe a lion for several minutes while on a woods trail in Montgomery, MA. He was rolling on it's back and basking in the sunshine. Mountain lions been in the area for a long time now as this occured over 20 years ago! It's even possible that they were never completely eliminated from the northest and Massachusetts?!?

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