Think You Saw A Mountain Lion in N.H.?

Jul 5, 2019

There have been several sightings of mountain lions in New Hampshire recently. The big cat has been extinct here since the mid-1800s.  N.H.'s Fish and Game department says there's no proof mountain lions live in the state, yet residents from Bedford to Berlin have been reporting sightings for years. We discuss what residents may have been seeing and what breeding mountain lion pairs would mean for our ecosystem. Think you've seen a mountain lion? Let us know your story and share your photos!

GUESTS:

  

 

  • We also hear excerpts from an interview with Sue Morse, founder and science director of Keeping Track. A nationally-renowned tracker, she is a naturalist with a specialty in the relationship between animals and their habitat, especially predators.   

 

 

 

  

Transcript:

This is a machine-generated transcript, and may contain errors. 

Peter Biello:
From New Hampshire Public Radio I'm Peter Biello in for Lark Knoy and this is the exchange.

Peter Biello:
There have been several alleged sightings of mountain lions in New Hampshire recently. The big cat has been extinct at least the eastern mountain lion has been extinct here since the mid 80s hundreds. New Hampshire Fish and Game Department says there's no proof. Mountain lions live in the state. Residents from Bedford to Berlin have been reporting sightings for years. Today on the exchange we discuss what residents may have been seeing and what breeding mountain lion pairs would mean for our ecosystem. Think you've seen a mountain lion. Let us know your story and share your photos. If you have them email exchange at an HP board or give us a call to tell us your story.

Peter Biello:
The number is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7.

Peter Biello:
Today on the program Patrick Tate New Hampshire Fish and Game Wildlife biologist and far better project leader Sam Evans Brown host of an HP podcast outside in which is about the natural world and how we use it. And Rick Van de Poll naturalist and founder of ecosystem management consultants of New England. Thank you very much for being here. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

Peter Biello:
Nice to be here. So I want to start the program with a comment from someone who is not in the studio with us today. SUE Morse naturalist and science director for the organization keeping track. We'll hear from her periodically through the show. Today she talked with us a little bit before the show about why the mountain line is so compelling and why we want it to be part of our world.

Sue Morse:
The big cat really commands the utmost respect not so much fear but fascination. And maybe it's a no holds barred nostalgia for a better world a wild or Fuller world not a world that's constrained by our boundaries and our taxes and our highways. And you know all that. It's bigger but bigger and better world. And the cougar embodies that.

Peter Biello:
So a little bit of nostalgia maybe for it for a better world embodied in the mountain lion. I wanted to get your thoughts on the mystique of the mountain lion start with you Rick.

Rick van de Poll:
Well the mountain lion of course has been sort of an enigma in the wildlife suite for years and years. And I I have this great text history of New Hampshire game and fir bears and I think by Helen Silver who used to work for fish and game and she sort of I kind eyes this animal in one of the quotes from 1892 stating that the catamaran was the most ferocious of all the wild beasts of New Hampshire his great size strength and agility of movement together with his formidable weapons rendered him the terror both of man and beast. And when provoked no animal could stand before him elegantly put.

Peter Biello:
Thank you for sharing that. Pat what do you think the mystique of the mountain lion.

Patrick Tate:
My line being a large predator a cat watch ambush his prey animal that hasn't been. Known to exist in the state for over well over a hundred years. brings a lot of. for some excitement. Fear for others and those two polarizing opinions on the situation is what I believe brings out mystique and Sam you know I take kind of a long view on this.

Sam Evans-Brown:
You know the North America had a number of large predator species when humans first arrived in the continent. The American Lion The Saber tooth Tiger and this was the one that survived. I mean they're a survivor. They're the generalists that made it through both the arrival of the Clovis people with their with their spears and then the Europeans with their guns. So so they're just a very resilient species and they're pretty they're pretty neat. And I think a lot of folks would like them to be around.

Peter Biello:
They make great mascots at least. Well let's talk a little bit about that. The term is because mascots notwithstanding right that they're referred to with a lot of different terms and sometimes they can be confused with a lot of different terms. So when we hear mountain lion there's also cougar there's wild cat there's Bobcat which is not a mountain lion maybe Patrick could you sort of spell out the different terms which are synonymous and which are completely different animals.

Patrick Tate:
So Cougar Mountain Lion katama.

Patrick Tate:
And there's one other way to model that is the same animal.

Patrick Tate:
Martin Like what about Panther Panther saying animals same animal and like a bit of trivia Guinness Book of World Records says the animal with the most names is in English alone they're supposedly 40 names for Mount lion.

Patrick Tate:
It's wow interesting that you brought this up because I've had people report I saw cardamom. Oh you saw him online. No I saw a camel. I didn't see him online. And those are not the same things. They are the same thing. Well they are the same. So Marty can you see what I'm getting at is the public sees different names and thinks that they're different animals but it's all the same animal. Now Bobcat is a completely different species. What's interesting about Bobcats is here in the Northeast we have some very large bobcats. We actually have the largest subspecies of bobcat in the northern part of our state which they can get up to 40 and over 40 pounds which looks like an 80 pound the animal to visually and quite large. And sometimes I've seen pictures of those where it's the question is What is that is that a bobcat. What kind of animal is that. And trying to figure out the little pieces to identify him so I bring up the names the differences but the appearances can be confusing for some.

Peter Biello:
Hmm. And so a mountain lion is actually quite large right. When you talk about a bobcat Bobcat maybe 80 90 pounds and then a mountain lion could be between 130 and 180 pounds. Rick shaking his head so Rick now correct me please.

Rick van de Poll:
80 90. No that's a little bit outside the range. That's too big for Bobcat. I think as Pat was saying you know 35 to 50 pounds on a male be reasonable range whereas mountain lions you're up to 100 110 maybe even 130 pounds on a big male.

Patrick Tate:
Okay. So one thing I'll add. What gets confusing is when you have a large adult animal and a smaller juvenile animal of a different species you can now step start beginning talking about overlapping body weights and sizes.

Peter Biello:
And that will make identification for a layperson rather difficult. Yes. Okay. Well let's hear from from Sue Morse again science director for the organization keeping track. She is renowned for tracking. Here she is talking about how to identify a mountain lion.

Sue Morse:
First and foremost if you have color or if you could see details of color look at the front of the face around the Pumas muzzle the muzzle itself is pure white. And then just up behind it you know at about 11 o'clock on one side and whatever that would be on the other side it's black. It's got a a smudge of black and bobcats and links just don't have that we don't have any other cards. The tail leave is a giveaway but not everybody gets to see the tail. But if you do if you think you're looking at a wild Puma their tail is very thick and especially in the winter is very thick and ponderous looking. It's not a skinny rope like tail like a housecat.

Peter Biello:
So Rick seems like you agree that the tail is a big giveaway whether or not it's a mountain lion Absolutely.

Rick van de Poll:
Absolutely. Course like Sue said you have to see it and it's not always that visible.

Peter Biello:
Yeah some of what she was saying sounds like it would require getting pretty close or at least having a nice zoom lens right Sam like.

Sam Evans-Brown:
Pretty well I was going to say it is nice to hear about how to identify the facial markings but probably I'd being a to identify the tracks is probably the more useful useful tool that one can have in their tool box.

Patrick Tate:
So I'm not sure what subspecies of cat they're using to differentiate by those markings but once she was describing the White other face in the black. For me as a person who's handled many bobcats and looked at many pictures Bobcat the White chin Bobcat right off is what comes out to me and then the black the the roughs on our Bobcats we'll have sometimes have black fringes on them. So for me as a person who's had the Bobcats right off my grits similar carries sticks to a bobcat The Long Tail obviously very different but those facial markings were overlapping for me.

Peter Biello:
We mentioned that the eastern cougar and the Western cougar are they were separate eastern cougar believed to be extinct. Were there any differences between these two that we could have noticed right off.

Patrick Tate:
Well I've never seen an Easter cougar so I can't say when I've handled these 10 cougars and whatnot. But having read a bit of information about his cougar there are a darker subspecies. The western mountain lion lives in a more of a grassland open area now so to blend in with a very lighted situation here in the Northeast we are very shadowy dark situation because of the forest and our cats wear a darker brownish reddish color than what they were and they were also smaller than what the western mountain lion is.

Sam Evans-Brown:
And when we talk about subspecies this actually leads to to an interesting tangent which is that the field of biology recently has been sort of revolutionized by the use of DNA to determine what subspecies are. And they used to be this whole list of the different subspecies of mountain lion and it has since been reduced to just to the North American and the South American. And in fact in 2011 when it was announced that the eastern cougar was officially extinct the reason that announcement was made is because they said really that it never existed. There wasn't a distinct subspecies the North American mountain lion is all is all one species and then you can find a genetically distinct South American subspecies. So we tossed these terms around but really the term subspecies has been sort of redefined in our lifetimes.

Patrick Tate:
So it's interesting it's brought up. People have asked me about the genetics of eastern mountain lion. So I did a bunch of research and all the documentation I found was there art are not any pieces of DNA of Eastern online. So for our scientists to do the lumping and whatnot. Some argue that it's a leap of faith. And that the Florida panther was more closely related to the eastern outline than the western mountain lion was. So there's even debate about that very subject.

Peter Biello:
Mm hmm. Well Is DNA the most reliable means we have of identifying whether or not what we saw is actually a mountain lion. Because I mean as we've heard in the past 10 minutes like there's there's some disagreement or at least some some vagueness about what an actual mountain lion should appear like in the wild assuming we can even get close enough.

Patrick Tate:
So one thing I'd say is DNA would definitely identify an animal animal's Mark line or not. But before I go any further I want to say we do not have sufficient game. Does not test random Scouts. We're not in the woods. We'd be inundated with scouts in the past when newspaper articles have been written about DNA and scouts. I've had a number of people call up and say I found a scout in the woods and I want it DNA identified. So the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station has a database on mountain lion and they can identify. Through DNA they approximate area in the United States or North America where I was born. Which goes back to the Connecticut Connecticut cat and what not. They were able to do all that by genetics. So here in New Hampshire when a person turns in something that the Department believes is possible mountain lion and believes it should be investigated further. We send out DNA samples to the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station. And so far we have not had any positive mark lion scats or any DNA.

Rick van de Poll:
Yes. So that that's more or less I think why I'm here and why I got into this in nineteen ninety nine I found a what appeared to be a print of a mountain lion and that was in the Osprey mountains and I thought well OK that's that's a print. And it's not really strong. Let's look for other evidence. Less than a year later I found a scat on the swamp range and I was working at the time with a fellow at the Michigan wildlife habitat Federation. Pat ruse and he was sampling doing DNA samples from cats in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I found a second scat scent both to him. They sent he sent his scent those two samples with his to Wyoming an unfortunate Fish and Game Commission there did not get a positive read on it but send it back to Central Michigan University where they did a nuclear micro satellite DNA analysis and found no significant difference between that scat and other scats that were tested from the Rocky Mountain region. So that did it for me. As far as I could tell there was a positive DNA sequence coming from the scat sample Patrick.

Patrick Tate:
Yes. So I learned about what Rick just reported through a heart of heart of New Hampshire a letter and. I can't. I wasn't employed as biologists at the time of a situation that's been reported but so I started digging into this report and spoke with another wildlife biologist with the agency and said Do you know anything about this. He said matter of fact I do. I'm gonna send you a letter that we researched this report and we spoke with those labs and the lab wrote in their letter to us that they could only say that Scott contained white Tea Party fur and that they could not say what deposited the scout because it's far too degraded listeners we'd love to hear from you about your mountain lion sightings if you have seen one or if you if you think you have give us a call we'd love to hear your story 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7.

Peter Biello:
Or send us an email exchange at an HP board. We're going to talk a little bit more about habitat first but then we'll get into sightings. So. So give us a call now. We'd love to have you in the queue. Sam Evans Brown.

Sam Evans-Brown:
I just want to say the bang and word you just heard I think to me exemplifies why it's really hard to come up with with positive you know 100 percent certain evidence that you've that what you've got is a mountain lions. So here we have you know a very qualified biologist who who found a print took a plaster cast found a scat send it to a university. And still the the folks there did weren't able to come up with it with 100 percent certainty what deposited that scat. So when we talk about the threshold of evidence required to say for sure you have seen a mountain lion it is rather high. You need you need either a really good photograph or you need you know fresh scat that can be sent to a lab out West that can they can be identified there. So I will just say this is a big reason why there have not been confirmed sightings I think is that the evidence required first. Someone's got to see one they're very secretive.

Sam Evans-Brown:
And second the evidence required is is you know pretty pretty tough to gather. And so maybe before I go to you recommend I ask you Patrick Tate is the standard too high.

Patrick Tate:
I don't believe it is. First off if the standard for an agency to go forward with the public and put out a press release that them outlines here their believers are going to say I told you they'd been here the whole time. The nonbelievers are going to say Show us your evidence and show us prove this to us. So for those reasons I don't believe the standards are too high the amount of game cameras out on the landscape to record images department alone through contracts had over 150 throughout the state biologists go through various deer yards throughout the year. No evidence and other states where Mountain lights have turned up. There's always been physical evidence to prove those situations like hair or fur scat hair prints pictures of the animal print scat hair. Something along those lines. Mountain lions when they show up they leave evidence. They absolutely do. Somewhere the way they travel the things they do they're going to leave evidence. And here we're talking about in this situation we're talking about it migrated from the West. If it's someone that has an illegal captive animal that is accustomed to humans those leave a lot of evidence because they want to go around humans to find food meaning they're used to being fed by humans. So they're not afraid of humans and they'll show up like a regular housecat.

Rick van de Poll:
Rick van de Poll so I was a non-believer as well. I mean I that said I've lived out west for nine years. I tracked cats and all the western states. I've collected scat samples I've got several in my collection. So you know until I found those two scats I didn't think that mountain lions were here in the east. The second one was not only fresh but when I actually put my hand on it it was you know smelled like cat and I it's there's no denying a fresh mountain lions get if you can tell it every story that KOAT. So it's there was no question in my mind. Second when I when they did forward it from Wyoming to to Michigan you know this was coming right from sample 18 and 19 had no remarkable differences from known mountain lions from Michigan or Wyoming. Now that to me seemed to indicate that they had done the secondary workup that in my opinion proved the existence of probably a disperse or possibly from South Dakota like the one in 2011.

Sam Evans-Brown:
So Tim so this cat's been been referenced a couple of times I think we should talk about it specifically lay the whole story out for folks who haven't heard the story because it's actually I think really indicative of a lot of stuff for talking about. So so in 2011 a mountain lion was killed in a car accident in Connecticut a car hit a mountain lion and killed it. The DNA the DNA that they were able to pull from the cat suggested that it was a dispersed mountain lion that came. From came from out west they tracked it all the way back to the Black Hills in the Dakotas. And so. And I think this is a really interesting story for a couple of reasons one is that it proves what Pat was saying which that basically from New York state where its traces was really picked up on a game camera around Lake George all the way down to Connecticut there was numerous. There was a lot of DNA evidence. You could trace that was this same cat from point to point to point. But also I think it proves the opposite point which is that sometimes they're pretty secretive because all the way from Minnesota where the where was the first time was picked up on a game camera to New York. There was no sign of it. All they think it traveled north through Canada up you know crossed across the Great Lakes and then and then down again through New York State. And there's there's no evidence of that cat's movement in that entire you know 12 hundred miles stretch of its journey. So I think in that story there's there's something for the believers and the nonbelievers and I and you know Mark L. Brock is who is a gentleman with the cougar Network told me this story is evidence that that if they were here we would know about it. But but I've also seen it cited the opposite way that look they're very secretive. It traveled all the way from from you know Minnesota to New York without being so seen Patrick take.

Patrick Tate:
So I agree with what Sam said in part that their ability to go undetected for amount of time but ultimately it was detected. So one thing that I find fascinating about this Connecticut cat was six months between the New York situation where they found evidence of it too when it was hit by a motor vehicle. So it's six months of a large large predatory animal that moves great distances on the landscape that is not known if it went northeast west Salt and how many circles it did. There is some information that suggests that it spent a portion of its time in Massachusetts near the Claiborne reservoir. So what those ranges. It's completely possible that it may have spent time in New Hampshire and went undetected but had it stayed in the area ultimately it would have been detected over time.

Peter Biello:
Mm hmm. Listeners we'd love to hear some of your thoughts on this. Have you seen one. Have you heard stories do you have questions about the mountain line.

Peter Biello:
Give us a call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 you can also send us an email exchange at an HP morgue. We'll hear more about the mountain lions impact and the role it plays in the ecosystem. We'll also hear your stories if you have them again. Phone number 1 800. 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. This is the exchange. I'm Peter B yellow. We'll be right back.

Peter Biello:
This is NHK PR Good morning and HP are summer car raffle is back and now's the time to get your early bird tickets. Don't miss your chance to win three two thousand dollar gas gift cards at any station of your choice not to mention the grand prize twenty five thousand dollars toward a new car. Get your tickets today and one for fifty dollars or six for 150 at NH PR and board. support for an HBO who comes from you our listener Sam from advanced in you a local New Hampshire nonprofit specializing in college student loans and student refinancing options. Information online ad an age student loans dawg. m from a weed family Automotive on store Street in Concord is serving the Concord area families automotive needs since 1995. Information that weed family automotive dot com sunny for today high temperatures low to mid 80s clear tonight overnight lows in the 50s tomorrow sunny highs in the upper 80s.

This is an HP are.

Peter Biello:
This is the exchange on an PR. I'm Peter Biello in for Laura NOI. And today we're talking about the mysterious elusive mountain line with folks who know something about it. We're gonna talk about sightings in this part of the program as well we'd love to hear your story.

Peter Biello:
When did you allegedly see a mountain lion. And I have to use that word allegedly because there is so much dispute about what people see and what they actually see. Email exchange it an HP fraud org or give us a call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Our guests today Patrick Tate New Hampshire Fish and Game Wildlife biologist Sam Evans Brown host of an HP podcast outside in. And Rick van de Poll naturalist and founder of ecosystem management consultants of New England. So before we get to the the the the stories of sightings we're getting a lot of calls. We're gonna cue you up and bring into the program listeners in just a moment but I want to ask about the role that Mountain Lions play in the ecosystem we've been talking a lot about mountain lions traveling and being sort of hard to track as they move. So do they. Pat do they typically just move around a lot. Do they travel. We mentioned that one cat that was hit by a car where it has it that it was a male looking for me. Is that typically what was happening there.

Patrick Tate:
Exactly I was gonna bring that up juvenile male of. Almost all species disperse greater distances than females. So that's the specimen that you find going long distances. The females disperse a shorter range and once they find a vacant home range they stay in that location and live there. These young males are tracking looking for mates and if they don't find a mate they just keep moving and moving and moving.

Peter Biello:
So if they were female mountain lions here they would be more males just because that's what they're looking for.

Patrick Tate:
Yeah yeah. For all the men out there that don't realize it. Women control our lives.

Sam Evans-Brown:
What he would have stopped as well I think is way way that the reason that mountain lion kept moving is because he wasn't finding anybody. OK.

Rick van de Poll:
Rick and I would add that if a mountain lion male takes up residence and successfully finds a female as pets there's gonna be a lot more evidence there will be like deer carcasses up in trees and territorial marking and claw marks and tracks and it you know dispersal is gonna be very tough to see or observed but residential parrots a totally different story.

Sam Evans-Brown:
Well and I think and the last takeaway here is everyone I think probably agrees that any possible sightings that have been seen. That's what we're seeing is dispersing mountain lions from the West who are just making their way through.

Peter Biello:
Yeah. And why would they what. Is there something particularly hospitable about New Hampshire Forests that make them want to come here.

Patrick Tate:
In theory it's a passing ball of a court and it goes wherever the bottom Ball wants to go. There's no attraction. There's these animals aren't coming with a map saying oh I want to go here. They're just moving around freely. So one thing I'll add we're talking about natural dispensers but talking with the conservation officer in the 1980s they recall going to a residence telling a person you can live here but your mountain lion can't. You need a permit to have that. So take care of this problem. I had a resident in New Hampshire tell me a story of a mountain lion in the 1960s where a person who would come summer in New Hampshire and then live in a different part of the country in the winter had a trailer that was housing his mount line. So nowadays we think of this in the Northeast as crazy stuff that people have a mountain lion as a pet. If you go on YouTube and search mount lion Pat you can see people patent their hundred pound kiddie like its regular mascot cat. So this whole illegal pet trade black market pro trade thing does does exist in a situation like that can happen. So we're fixated on natural but there's other possibilities.

Sam Evans-Brown:
One in fact Helena silver in that sort of tome that Rick van de Poll read from at the beginning is she. She quotes a biologist in Lyme New Hampshire who who is keeping two mountain lions himself so in the not too distant past in the early nineteen hundreds it was perhaps more common and still in Maine. You know you have to have a license and it's hard to get that license a license to own a mountain lion. Yes. So so it is possible in Maine to still to to to have one but you have to be sort of professional handler as it were.

Patrick Tate:
Same here in New Hampshire too.

Peter Biello:
Ok weird question but do they make good pets. Like why would you want one wildlife.

Patrick Tate:
I've from all the situations I've read and learned about wildlife. They're very loyal to what the handler which makes them very dangerous to everyone else.

Peter Biello:
Oh okay. So maybe a good pet for you but not for your neighbor if you just stop by unannounced. Okay. So let's let's go to the phones. Listeners give us a call if you'd like. 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. John is calling from Bennington. Thanks for your call. John you're on the air.

Caller:
Oh hi. Thank you. So now what's going on.

Caller:
So I've been telling this story for five years or so and very few people believe me. But I was riding a mountain bike not far from my house. I live pretty much on the town line of Greenfield just a couple of miles down in the Greenfield. Early in the morning. On a dirt road. County road and all of a sudden a big cat jumps out of the woods over a stone wall stood in the middle of the dirt road as I rode towards it. I came to a stop and it was and I've seen a lot of bobcats in my time and I just came to a stop it was just sort of confused about what I was seeing. It was really muscular looking cat I mean is that like a side angle to me. I noticed it had a really big sweeping tail that kind of curled up behind it and all but still at that point because everyone says there's no mountain lions here.

Caller:
I got home to my wife that a gene that you should have seen the cat. I saw that had this giant the bobcat had this giant sweeping which is John Bobcat don't have big sweeping tails.

Caller:
And the more I thought about it the color of it it was definitely not a bobcat. So I've been convinced the whole time that I saw a big cougar plume or whatever you want to call it standing there in the road in Greenfield.

Peter Biello:
Well John thanks very much for the story really appreciate it. Sam. John. John if you're still on the line here I was going to I don't. Yeah I did. How far were you from this cat.

Caller:
Are probably. 50 feet above the most. I just stood there just a second and I came to a complete stop and then I ran away.

Peter Biello:
And then it ran away okay. John thanks. Thanks very much. So Pat you field a lot of calls about people seeing or reportedly seeing mountain lions. Is this kind of a typical story.

Patrick Tate:
So it's very typical. Mountain Lion report and as a biologist for the state that's a situation where if he said to me what did I see. Well I can't tell you what you saw. You saw what you saw. And I can recall its information but I can't confirm or verify anything.

Peter Biello:
Let's go to Mike in Epping. Mike thanks for your call.

Caller:
I do. I saw the tail end of a literally from behind the shoulder The Long Tail mountain lion crossing the highway going from Password to often Village downtown. And I was probably about a half a mile from downtown all village on the right. And I just said I saw I saw they from behind the shoulder all the way past the long tail. And it was unmistakable. It was not a bobcat.

Caller:
It had to be a mountain lion convinced I was about 30. Absolutely. Yeah 13 to 15 years ago 13 to 15 years ago.

Caller:
Yeah. And what was really remarkable about the whole thing was I was maybe a half mile down on all buildings.

Peter Biello:
Well yeah. Well let me ask maybe Pat and Rick about this. Any sense of of whether or not mountain lions are sort of wary of more population dense areas like like the one he was describing Rick.

Rick van de Poll:
Well a report that you know as John Harrigan up north has in co-ops County for about 15 years I kept track of reports and people would call me and tell me where they saw the mountain lion they thought they saw it and it varied right from you know downtown villages all the way to remote highlands of the North Country and and everywhere in between. A lot of times. I mean there was this one lady I remember and tough tomorrow. She was having a garden party on her back porch and everybody in the party saw this mountain lion across the field down below the porch. They reported seeing the big tail and everything everything. And it was you know 10 or 12 people saw it all at once. So hard to know hard to refute if there's no interest in making up a story which many people of course do then I would respond the same way as Pat did. I can't tell you what you saw but it sounds like a mountain lion. But no proof was offered.

Peter Biello:
We at this e-mailed comment from Michael. He writes As a farmer I come across many outdoorsman looking to hunt our property had a conversation with one who believed very strongly that we had mountain lions in New Hampshire. He told me that on one of his many scouting trips for Black Bear he found a deer carcass up in a tree. So Michael follows with the question. Do we have native species that could have exhibited this type of behavior leaving leaving a deer carcass up in a tree. And the second question is this a behavior mountain lions exhibit.

Peter Biello:
Rick I believe you did mention that that they do leave carcasses up in the tree from time to time but are there any other species known in New Hampshire to do this on a regular basis. Pat humans people leave deer carcasses up in trees.

Patrick Tate:
I've had hunters hang deer carcasses forbidding wildlife entries. I've actually had to walk in on one or two now and look at what was going on and figured out what was going on. So yeah as far as wildlife species that put deer and trees know there aren't any others that I know of that put deer in trees just just humans might be responsible for that.

Sam Evans-Brown:
Well this might be a good moment to talk about hoaxes. Right. Which which I think Pat and I have both experienced. We did a short segment about mountain lion sightings earlier this year and and after which I was sent a photo and also a video recording that was mostly just audio because it was so dark the photo just a quick reverse Google image search you can put images online and see where else where else they've been posted revealed that the photo had been taking out taken out in Wyoming and has been used you know hundreds of times to claim and the person who sent it to me said it had been taken New Hampshire.

Peter Biello:
But clearly you know you're saying like hoaxes people who claim to have seen a mountain lion but knowingly have not or are appropriating photos taken elsewhere of legit mountain lion say out West where they people acknowledge that they exist certainly knowingly or unknowingly in this case the person who sent it to me said hey a friend of mine sent me this photo and said he took it on his back porch also.

Sam Evans-Brown:
But I mean the video I had been sent was you know a recording of a animal growling but it was in slow motion and when I asked the person why is this in slow motion the denied that it was so there's a lot of weird stuff that happens in regards to people claiming they've seen they've seen these things.

Peter Biello:
Well I want to ask Patrick about one of these stories a few years ago you had a story about someone who claimed to. Have a photo. Sort of dropped onto the SD card of a camera he'd set up out in the wild. Can you tell us about that story.

Patrick Tate:
Yes. The report came in from a conservation officer. Can you look into this picture. Have it reported down in the Keene area. I looked at the picture and asked me what do you see in the picture and I wrote back. Not one picture of him online while the person meet with us. Can we go to the site. The great thing about pictures isn't the animal itself it's the background. So you want identifiable backgrounds. If it's just in the middle of a greenfield you can't prove anything. Had great trees behind it beautiful ferns on the ground so it brought me down on the site and the ferns on the ground matched. We had six copies printed out each. Each person had their own copy and now it was identify the trees the species of tree matched. However the scarring on the trees did not and the angles were off.

Patrick Tate:
It became a very interesting investigation over time because it started becoming. People were calling the New Hampshire Fish and Game director's office saying why are you dragging your feet on this. We want answers. What's going on. And because you know things flow downhill and I was pushed to go investigate it more and met with the individual two or three times and there was a bunch of inconsistencies about the photograph. And as the biologist who's gonna stand on this and if I'm going to say this is a proven picture I need to be able to stand on it so soundly and have the evidence so I going to go through it with a fine tooth comb kept picking pieces apart trying to answer these pieces. Anyways after three weeks I finally found the image on line on a field and stream photo contest and the explanation in the end was the person that set the camera out with another individual and they believed that someone who knew of the camera location saw the similarities put the can't picture on their SD card so it looked like that camera recorded the image that is. That's pretty elaborate. I have one that's more elaborate than that.

Peter Biello:
Wow. So and so they so they do get pretty involved. People go through great lengths to create hoaxes like this. Rick your thoughts.

Rick van de Poll:
Well I didn't. Absolutely there are a lot of folks out there who for some reason need to create something that raises a stir and gets the attention of the media etc.. I actually been interviewed a couple of times by reporters and with all due respect for the media you know facts aren't always communicated correctly. You know one of the the biggest questions I have about that is it points to how much we don't know and if in fact we don't know enough. Is there a way we can learn more about these dispersing mountain lions that may travel through the Granite State and that I would ask you certainly part about whether or not a he's spending too much time chasing down these kind of false leads or B would rather be doing something else that is more informative to whether or not we actually have or can prove that we have dispersing mountain lions in the state.

Peter Biello:
Yeah well what do you think Pat is. Do you get a lot of these these these things that end up being hoaxes.

Patrick Tate:
I would say well when social media first started they picked up the hoaxes became much more prevalent in the last four or five years hoaxes have died down completely. I don't see the hoaxes anymore at that level. So. It doesn't happen as much anymore. However if if and when it does happen it takes up a lot of resources looking at that situation and identifying what's going on because when you start out you don't know it's a hoax. You don't know what's going on. You treat it as if it's a sincere situation.

Peter Biello:
We got an e-mail question from Robert in Epsom who asks are sightings or encounters with these big cats less dangerous here where they're passing through than out west where those same mountain lines might be establishing territory Rick.

Rick van de Poll:
Oh yeah absolutely. You know I think it's there's a lady Holly Ernst out in California who has done a lot of the genotyping of mountain lions in Northern California the ones that are of course most people have heard about taking down hikers bikers etc. and territorial animals are much more inclined to create a problem with passer bys than dispersing animals in fact I'd be totally shocked if a dispersal would encounter with a human purposefully unless they had already had some type of training to do so.

Peter Biello:
Listeners give us a call if you have a question or a story of a sighting 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Let's talk to Mike in Webster. Mike you're on the air.

Caller:
Thanks. Good morning.

Caller:
Yeah I hadn't experienced blastoff fall so this was around September and I was driving from Webster into Concord on Horse Hill Road and anybody in the area would know I was right near the Red Barn and all of a sudden this animal jumps out of the woods and it bounded across the road in about two two giant leaps and stopped in the field just on the other side. Mike Guyton pressure was almost Greyhound like very muscular large back legs on it and the coloration on it was almost an orange brownish orange color and so I stop and I look at this thing in the field and as the animal looks at me the face was very chiseled definitely not a bobcat. I mean no doubt a seen Bobcat seen his stuff. I've seen him in the woods and that was not a bobcat but I was looking at. So I reached down to grab the camera and looked back and like a ghost it's gone.

Caller:
It had just left that field and was out. You know I'm like seriously I can't get a picture of the thing but what it what it is. Incredible sighting and I called him the fish and game and they immediately sent me to a website to look at all the bobcat pictures. And they asked me about the tail which I just did not remember that tail out of that whole experience.

Caller:
I cannot recall or see the tail in my in my image of it. So what a neat experience. No doubt in my mind it was. It was some sort of a Lion Mountain Lion animal.

Peter Biello:
Well Mike thanks very much for sharing your story. Really appreciate it. Let's talk to Bob in Laconia Bob. Thanks for calling.

Caller:
Hi. Pelosi story here we go. Just. I'm sorry go ahead you're on the air. Tell us your story.

Caller:
Oh yeah. About two years ago I was at the Laconia airport on the way home from the airport and there's a big lake on one side called Lily Pond.

Caller:
And then there's the Lily Pond Road and then there's a six foot tall fence. And I saw you cat about four feet long from nose to tail come across from the water across the road and just leap over a six foot perimeter fence in a single bound. And a lot of people around the county airport have seen a lot of pilots coming in said they saw huge. Mountain lion or cat running across. When they were landing or taking off and it seems like it's been there for like. Or years or so.

Peter Biello:
Ok. So so. Well thanks for sharing. Want to put this to to Patrick Tate who may have heard some some info or info from listeners like you about these these these cats. What do you think that.

Patrick Tate:
So I just got to throw a little interesting side note in this. OK. That location they just described we had two or three Bobcats radio collared on just off the runway in Laconia airport. And they were using all the habitat. So I just throwing that out there it's interesting.

Peter Biello:
I did mention four feet nose to tail would be kind of small for a mountain lion. So. Right.

Patrick Tate:
While a juvenile not a juvenile I guess if you want nodes to the base of the tail for juvenile that wouldn't be small at all. Well within there. So I just brought up the bobcat thing because the location is fascinating to me that that that location we have Bobcats existing but that location we have a mountain lion report because it's a developed area and which brings me back to earlier what I had said it's a bouncing ball. They don't know the direction they're going. They just end up in these places. So I certainly can't dispute anything that they said there's no evidence for me to go by to verify or say what my thoughts are on the situation. It's you know I recognized their report and. Tim Yeah.

Sam Evans-Brown:
So I just had two thoughts which is that we hear a lot of these stories and all of us here have heard these stories. And to anyone listening I would just say you know fishing game who wants proof right. So so do what you can get to do what you can to get proof. So try to take photographs if you see something like this. You know perhaps poke around where you saw it and see if you can find a track. And those and that's how you can go from a story that Pat says I have nothing to say about that to a story that you know could be the first verified sighting in over 100 years. And just one more note about this danger question when even when you look at the states that have extended populations stable populations of mountain lions attacks are relatively rare. So I would put this in the category of sort of like shark attacks right. So they're scary. They get a lot of media attention but compared to the the amount of times that a mountain lion could attack a person but doesn't because they don't typically view us as prey. You know interactions are pretty unusual.

Peter Biello:
Worth mentioning if we're scaring anybody question a mysterious mountain lions lurking perhaps in someone's backyard.

Peter Biello:
This is the exchange on an HP yard today we're talking about the mysterious elusive majestic Mystic Mountain Lion. And we want to know your stories if you have them 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 or email exchange at an HP bar dot org we'll talk about conspiracy theories when we come back.

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And that's this morning at 10:00 here on NH PR. Support for an age PR comes from you our listeners. M from Tree Hill author series presenting Diane lay back. Author of The last woman in the forest on Saturday July 13th at 7 p.m. at Warner town hall Warner historical dawg. Sunny today high temperatures low to mid 80s it'll be clear tonight overnight lows in the 50s for tomorrow sunshine with high temperatures mid to upper 80s.

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Peter Biello:
This is the exchange on an HD PR fine Peter Biello and today we're talking with folks who can tell us about the mysterious elusive mountain line and whether or not it is actually here in New Hampshire. Give us a call if you have a question or comments or story about perhaps seeing a mountain lion here in New Hampshire. The number 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 so promised a discussion about conspiracy theories.

Peter Biello:
Sam I wanted to ask you a little bit about that first and then turn to Patrick Tate efficient game. We we hear that there is allegedly a government conspiracy to deny the existence of mountain lions here in New Hampshire so I guess a local government conspiracy. Sam what's the incentive for the government to deny allegedly.

Sam Evans-Brown:
Well first I want to sort of explain why what the theory is but then also throw a bit of cold water on it because I don't think there's much much logic behind it but essentially is that if fish and game were to acknowledge that there was a population of Mount lions in the state there's a chance that something like a listing under the federal Endangered Species Act might happen and then there'd be you know some they'd have to put a plan in place to protect the species there'd be you know restrictions put on development. There'd be there'd be all sorts of you know basically a lot of hassle required if that were to happen. It doesn't make much sense because you know mountain lions are as we as we said before. There's just one subspecies of North American mountain lion. It's listed as population of least concern. It's not an emerging endangered species no work no there are there are populations in specific states so the Florida panther is is an endangered species that sub population is in fact listed under the Endangered Species Act. But if you were to get Western dispersing mountain lions just would just sort of expanding into New Hampshire. There's no logic for why they'd be listed as an endangered species. So I don't understand really how how this this idea came to be but it is the main reason why folks believe that fishing game is is covering up the fact that there are mountain lions in the state again with no evidence.

Peter Biello:
What about the idea of tourism like us leaving aside the fact that it is not on the Endangered Species Act is it. Are there other powers that be worried that scary mountain lions will scare off people from camping in New Hampshire.

Sam Evans-Brown:
Certainly that is a thing I've heard but again you have to think of the incentives involved here. You've got you've got biologists right who are trying to make their make their way in the world make a career if you are the biologists who confirmed a sighting of mountain lions in the state that would be very good for you like you would be all over the news. So I hate the idea that there's some sort of upward you know downward pressure from the bosses saying Don't you know don't tell about the mountain lions because it'll scare away the tourists. I just don't understand the mechanism for how that would happen.

Peter Biello:
So Patrick today Fish and Game no downward pressure on you to deny the existence at all costs of mountain lions here in New Hampshire.

Patrick Tate:
No downward pressure at all I think actually Sean turned up and we found the evidence there a number of people would finally say finally we can put this debate to bed. We have evidence and as biologists we would find it quite exciting to find that evidence of one in the state. So there is definitely no downward pressure by anyone.

Rick van de Poll:
Rick your thoughts. Well just that I have evidence and it was not it was denied by fishing game at the time and I you know there's I don't need to prove to anybody that I saw one just like some of your callers said okay. I believe I saw one that's fine and I'm not looking for an immediate story. But I do think that it's appropriate that a fishing game agency would recognize verifiable proof if they could.

Patrick Tate:
If I could just say one thing. Fish and Game then deny the evidence. Fish and Game looked into the labs to have them confirm the information in the reports which the labs did not. So what I'm getting back is the verifying and confirming of evidence what that was not there.

Peter Biello:
So let's say Rick that it was confirmed that there that there are mountain lines here in New Hampshire. We've met Fish and Game's BURDEN OF PROOF. I mean so what what is the practical change that it would bring to New Hampshire if any.

Rick van de Poll:
Well education is the real important thrust of of what all of us do as biologists and Game Managers and to make sure that a things like what Sam was saying that in spite of what you believe the mountain lions will not eat your children they will not steal your pets from your backyard and they will not necessarily be seen by you unless you're extremely lucky. So the whole media hype about how scary mountain lions are should should go away immediately and that would be that I think the major thrust of educating folks about these casualties vs..

Sam Evans-Brown:
Sam go ahead. Just one quick point I think I think when we we talk about these conspiracy theories the real story is that fish and game is an agency that that is short on budget and staff. Right. So and so the idea that they can follow up on every individual sighting is just crazy right. I mean that so many of them are false sightings we. There's a lot of photographs that you can see that it's very clearly a tabby cat that someone has thought was a mountain lion. And so so with their limited staff and limited budget that is that is more and more limited every year because you know fewer people are buying hunting and fishing licenses. That's the real story is they can't follow up on every one of these sightings.

Peter Biello:
Let's talk to Ron and where Ron thanks very much for calling. You're on the air.

Caller:
Hey guys how you doing. I just want to tell you a story that I read. My wife and I saw a mountain lion. We live around Cold Springs Campground and it was undeniably a mountain lion. It was in the spring flash kind of early summer and my wife looked at you look at the size of an adult bear and we were up in arms. The second story window through about 30 feet away from it. And it came out we could see it had and we could see its long swooping tail. And boy it was big it had to be at least 200 pounds the thing was you and and it just made a little bit of noise and it was gone. As I tried to get a picture of it so there was it was definitely we looked up all the pictures and it was definitely not a bobcat or anything else being it looked just like a mountain lion. So I know it's another unconfirmed report but you string enough of these together. I would say that there's going to be the truth in here somewhere. And so I just wanted to share my share my experience with you guys and it was pretty awesome to see if you get to see one albeit it was in the brush. I just saw the head and the tail that was leaving.

Peter Biello:
Well hey Rob. Thank you very much for that story really appreciate it. Love hearing these stories. Let's go now to to Kyle in Keene I believe Kyle is this Kyle Jarvis from the Keene Sentinel a former reporter and former reporter. OK. But you've done some reporting on this. Yes and you want to share what you learned.

Caller:
I have yeah. Good morning guys. Thanks for taking my call. I was at the Sentinel as a reporter there for about four years and during that time I probably wrote close to a half dozen stories or so on this topic including a lengthy feature at one point that in which I spoke to several people from around the banana region claimed to have seen mountain lions that at one time or another. And you know it's rather interesting because certainly there are those you as a case of mistaken identity or they wanted to see something that perhaps they actually didn't. But my experience was that the majority of these accounts could not be taken lightly. These were normal everyday folks. Some of the reports that I looked into that were actually on file at the local fish and game office were even from people who did not live locally. They lived perhaps elsewhere in New England and they were just passing through and happened to have an encounter of some sort. And really whenever you hear tiny code and long rope like tale it's kind of hard to pin this sighting on any other creature rather than an outline or just nothing else really matches that description.

Caller:
So that was interesting I think.

Peter Biello:
And Carl before you continue I think Patrick Tate just give me a second. Kyle I think about Rick Tate wants to jump in here.

Caller:
Well I think Patrick I recognized your name. It's good to talk to you.

Patrick Tate:
Nice talk to you too. So one thing I'd point out is we've been talking about situations with no evidence a number of them come in with photographs and yet what they fit what they description of the animal they saw and by the way I got a picture of what I saw. Here it is. This is where things start breaking down when you so I get pictures with this great description and one of my favorite stories is a great description what the witness and then so I called the witness and wanted information from them and the person says What are you talking about. I was a Bobcat we saw it and I have a picture of it. I'll send it to you. They sent it already. I mean it wasn't your idea. If so that's for us as an agency. That's why we always go back to the physical evidence to support what they're reporting.

Caller:
Absolutely. It's unfortunate that that kind of thing happens as often as it does. I would just suggest that in my experience as a reporter covering this covering this issue for a few years at least at what point do we reach a certain critical mass for lack of a better term of accounts where I'm not to suggest that you guys aren't taking this possibility seriously. I think that you probably are. But along the lines of the conspiracy theories as you mentioned earlier there there was a bit of a sense on behalf of what I'll call the promo online community who felt that fishing gain maybe not even so much in a spoken policy but maybe sort of an unspoken policy did not want to find themselves in a situation where they had to spend money to create a management plan and so forth. Now again I don't know that there's anything to that. But on the other side of that coin there is this sense that there have been so many sightings locally and you guys Patrick you might recall the name the Wyndham McCracken she kind of turned herself into a local authority off authorities the right word but she was very dedicated to this. I don't know if she still is. I hope she's listening and she had spoke to a lot of different people ended up having a couple of sightings of her alone without sort of by accident. So I think the point that I just want to get across is that there is a very strong sense this here in the and not region that there is that there is some sort of mountain lion population how large it is how extensive it is. All of that remains unanswered but it is an extremely interesting question. I really really enjoyed listening to this program so thank you all very much.

Peter Biello:
Well Karl Jarvis a former reporter for The King's son Nile thank you very much for for calling in and sharing your perspective and to his point Patrick T. I mean yes we haven't met the scientific burden of proof here in New Hampshire as far as physical evidence is is concerned but is there room at Fish and Game For A kind of an informal nod to all of the people who have somehow convinced themselves and possibly some others that yeah there may be occasional sightings here.

Patrick Tate:
So the individuals can say that but for an agency that's based on science and what not to to go off with no evidence and then get into that giant debate and all these other issues and put credibility at risk I don't think that would be a great path to take.

Patrick Tate:
Well. Patrick Tate New Hampshire Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist thanks very much for being here this morning really appreciate it. Thank you. Thanks also to Rick van de Poll naturalist and founder of ecosystem management consultants of New England and Sam Evans Brown host of an HP podcast outside in about the natural world and how we use it. Really appreciate you guys being here as well. Thanks for a great thanks. And listeners this has been a lively conversation we're sorry we didn't get to all the the e-mailed comments and the phone calls your stories are appreciated even if we didn't get a chance to hear them today. But you can continue the conversation on Facebook or at our Web site and HP Borg. The exchange is a production of New Hampshire Public Radio. The engineers Dan Colgan our senior producer is Allan Grimm. Michael Brindley is our program manager our producers our Jessica Hunt and Christina Phillips and our theme music was composed by Bob Lord. I'm Peter Biello. Thank you very much for listening.

The views expressed in this program are those of the individuals and not those of an HP are its board of trustees or its underwriters. If you missed part of today's program listen to the exchange. Anytime at any HP broad dot org or subscribe to our podcast search Apple podcasts Google Play or stitcher for an HP bar exchange.