CASTINE—It’s a cougar! A mountain lion! How about a Sasquatch?
Recent sightings of what is nearly guaranteed to be a bobcat have turned people’s heads while walking in Witherle Woods or just looking out their kitchen windows.
Footage captured on a Dyce’s Head security camera shows what is near certainly a large bobcat, as mountain lions and cougar sightings have not been confirmed in eastern Maine for many years (and neither have Sasquatch sightings). But a community Facebook thread threw up a few other possibilities, some humorous such as Sasquatch, after photos and sightings circulated throughout the community.
But bobcats are no joke. While not a threat to people, they do get hungry and see house pets, chickens and even deer as a worthy meal, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife biologist Steve Dunham said. “A large male bobcat can take down a deer. They’re amazing animals.”
On Castine Road, Gregory Dunham (who is not related to Steve Dunham) stepped to a downstairs window after his daughter, Abby, saw something moving in the yard.
“When I first saw it, I thought, it’s just a cat. Then I realized it’s bigger than a cat,” he said. “I watched it and took photos for about 45 minutes. It was walking around, sniffing, ears perked. Then I saw it move stealthily and then pounce and come up with what looked like a vole in its mouth. Then It laid down on the ground and ate it for a while.” Dunham pegged the bobcat as a juvenile, and his photos appear to confirm this.
Such sightings may be up this season because of a “robust bobcat population,” Steve Dunham said. The Maine IFW estimates those numbers based on trapper success, and trappers have been catching bobcats this fall. “Wildlife sightings, in general, are through the roof,” Dunham said.
Bumper crops of acorns, pinecones, chestnuts and other “mast” — the fruit of forest trees — has caused the small mammal population to “explode” in the previous two to three years, Dunham said, attracting predators such as bobcats.
Some people may remain convinced that what they saw was a mountain lion or another big cat, and while most mountain lion sightings do indeed turn out to be bobcats, Dunham said, “Nothing’s impossible. These are large animals that can travel great distances.” He advises making loud noises to scare big cats away. “You don’t want them to feel welcome.”
“The important thing for folks to know is this is normal,” he said. “Large animals are around houses all the time. They live here.”