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There’s an interesting quote in a Concord Monitor story today about people who are sure they have seen mountain lions in New Hampshire, from a woman responding to New Hampshire Fish & Game’s desire for actual evidence before they agree that animals which haven’t been actually seen within hundreds of miles of New Hampshire have somehow popped up here.

“I don’t know why, but they won’t admit there’s mountain lions around here.”

This, in a nutshell, explains why human beings argue so much.

This woman has decided in advance that X is true and responds to all events and pieces of information through that lens. I suspect no evidence or argument – other than saying she’s correct – will placate her.

In this case, X is “mountain lions exist in New Hampshire” but you can replace it with “my religion is the only true religion” or “my political candidate is the best” or “vi is better than emacs” or almost anything else and the situation continues to hold true.

The official response to the frequent claim of Granite State cougars is that while one or more mountain lions might make it to New Hampshire from the Midwest (which is as close as they come), until we have something more than a quick visual sighting it is sensible to assume they aren’t here, because people are very, very, very often mistaken about quick visual sightings of animals.

I’ve written about this subject many times over the years, including a time when I hunted down three different stories of sightings that were frequently cited by believers, only to find that they fell apart of close examination. I know that Fish and Game has looked into a number of examples, including cases with photos, and found that they’re always bobcats or coyotes or, in a more than one case, just an ordinary housecat.

We human beings are terrible observers, and until there’s evidence like DNA from fur caught on barbed wire, some really good footprints (not in snow, which melts and makes bobcat prints look much bigger) or a good photo from one of the zillion critter-cams in the woods – then it makes sense to say “nope.”

By the way – yes, I’m aware of the mountain lion that was hit by a car in Connecticut after making it there from the Midwest. Amazing story, but it doesn’t change the default to “assume they’re here until proven otherwise”.

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