Cougars on the Loose!

The mountain lion, puma, catamount, or cougar was extirpated from the state of Maine many decades ago, but rumors of big cat sightings have persisted. In recent years, physical evidence of mountain lions has even been recovered.

The first question for biologists is whether these are truly wild cats or animals released into the outdoors by people who can't care for them (cougars are evidently quite cheap and easy to purchase) or perhaps by idealists who nurture vague dreams of repopulating Maine's woods with genuinely dangerous felines. The second question biologists ask is whether wild mountain lions are expanding their range across the eastern United States, and if so, how many cats do you need to start a viable breeding population.

In the new issue of Down East, Paul J. Fournier, author of the much recommended Tales from Misery Ridge, takes on these questions. Paul is a Registered Maine Guide, former sporting camp owner, and spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, so his lifelong chase of mountain lions in Maine makes for required reading—at least if you enjoy reading about the North Woods.