In my last column, I put out a call for readers to submit their suspected mountain lion encounters. I wasn’t disappointed. People reached out through email and social media to share their stories. A common thread among the sightings is geography. Several reports came from northern and central Lincoln County. Waldoboro alone generated three sightings.
The oldest sighting reported to me dates back to 1987. According to the woman who submitted the report, she was stopped at the intersection of Route 32 and Wagner Bridge Road when she noticed a large cat cross the road and dash into a nearby field. Heading home to consult an encyclopedia (no instant Google verification in the ’80s), she was able to confirm that she had indeed seen a mountain lion. Later news reports also made mention of a similar animal seen nearby.
Another credible sighting was relayed to me by phone. I spoke with a gentleman who saw a tawny-colored cat several years ago in the vicinity of Old Augusta Road in Jefferson and North Waldoboro. He noticed the cat had a long tail (excluding a bobcat) and watched as it darted into a heath. After seeing the cat, he called the state and reported the sighting.
Hannah, formerly of Waldoboro, also shared an interesting anecdote regarding mountain lions. In the 1980s, a friend visiting her from Australia “saw a panther in a tree, lying stretched out on a big branch, in broad daylight …” The cat was in an uninhabited area up the road from her home. She added that the cat had been seen earlier that week crossing a local bridge.
From central Lincoln County, I received a report of a sighting that happened on River Road. This reporter shared that he got a clear look and saw brown fur and a mountain lion’s profile. In nearby South Newcastle, a resident has seen recent evidence of a large cat prowling near the Marsh River. The Lincoln County News Facebook page had comments from people who claimed to have seen mountain lions in Bristol, Bremen, Edgecomb, Southport, and Wiscasset.
Intriguingly, I also received an email regarding a juvenile mountain lion seen outside of Lincoln County.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe that there are mountain lions in Lincoln County. My belief has been bolstered by the numerous people who reached out to me to share their stories. These are thoughtful people with nothing to gain by coming forward. Furthermore, as the volume of sightings grows, more local people may be more likely to share their own stories.
As the state suggests, some mountain lion sightings may be explained by escaped former pets or migrants that have wandered into the Pine Tree State. However, how do we explain the sightings from the same town that are 30 years apart? If there is no established breeding population, how do these cats keep winding up in Waldoboro and northern Lincoln County? Are they coming here on vacation?
Thank you for sharing your stories with me. I hope to revisit this issue in the months and years to come.
(Lee Emmons, of Newcastle, is an amateur naturalist and former educator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)