Search for cougars continues in Pennsylvania
I’ve been writing about cougar sightings – and whether mountain lions really might exist in Pennsylvania – for more than 40 years, so it’s not unusual that I get contacted about a story.
Heard an interesting one recently, and it ended the way they all have. Probably wasn’t a big cat, but maybe it could be. There is never any real proof.
This time, a Lancaster woman sent me some photos taken near a camp she and her husband recently purchased near Houtzdale in Clearfield County.
On Jan. 9, there was still a lot of snow on the trails behind their place and they took a four-wheeler and explored “some of the less-traveled routes.” They came across some very curious tracks and scat. In addition to the photos, she took a sample of the scat home, hoping somebody would analyze it for her.
“I’m convinced it was a mountain lion,” she wrote. “The tracks never seem to backtrack on themselves, so we think it was just passing through.”
I forwarded her photos to a Penn State wildlife ecology professor and asked him what he thought. He was unconvinced.
“The scat has corn in it, so it’s not from a bobcat, lynx or mountain lion. The configuration of the scat looks more like bear,” he wrote. “The tracks look more like a large bobcat. Just one measurement of a stride length is insufficient to say much – 2 feet could be a bobcat moving quickly.”
The woman was skeptical of his assessment. “I’m surprised he didn’t react to the photo showing the obvious tail drag that was everywhere the animal went. Bobcats don’t have long tails.”
Also, she pointed out that the scat is on top of the snow. “If there was a bear there, he would have left tracks in the snow,” she responded “The only tracks surrounding the scat were the same as those I sent photos of. And they look like a big cat to us.”
She still thinks it was a cougar … “I have the scat in my freezer in case anyone wants to test it,” she concluded.
Me? What do I think? I have no clue.