As regular readers know, I am very, very, VERY skeptical that any mountain lions exist in New Hampshire despite the constant parade of “I know what I saw!” I await no actual evidence – game camera shots, prey killed in ways that cougars do it, DNA from scat or hair caught on a fence.
I am less skeptical that wolves might be here because they’re in Quebec unlike any population of mountain lions (yes, I’m familiar with that one report of cougar DNA in Quebec but nobody has replicated it). But that requires evidence, too, and as NHPR reports this evidence is lacking so far. (You can read/hear the piece here)
“I worked on wolves for over a decade and have been to hundreds of wolves kills personally. And it’s pretty, pretty easy to tell when a moose has been killed by wolves,” said Maine Wildlife Division Director Nate Webb. “And that’s just not occurring here in Maine.”
Wolves are more complicated that cougars because coyotes sometimes interbreed with wolves and we have lots of coyotes in New England. Maybe some of them are partially wolf? And is there a point in which a hybrid is more wolf than coyote? Good questions.
I agree there likely is no regular presence of cougars in New England, but a wild cougar was verified in 2011 that probably lived in NY, MA, & CT for at least 7 months.
Hawley, J.E., P.W. Rego, A.P. Wydeven, M.K. Schwartz, T.C. Viner, R. Kays, K.L. Pilgrim, and J.A.
Jenks. 2016. Long-distance dispersal of subadult male cougar from South Dakota to Connecticut
documented with DNA evidence. Journal of Mammalogy 97:1428-1434.
Yes. This one cougar from a decade ago is brought up every time the topic is mentioned.
The big reason cougars aren’t here is that the females don’t like to move much – if they den in one place they don’t want to den in another in later years. So breeding populations shift slowly. By contrast, female coyotes move about as much as the males – that’s one reason they’re everywhere.