First, this article in Town Line from December, 2020, with the best trail camera photo so far.
And here are some survey responses to date.
Many, many people have mentioned to me that they have seen a panther in Maine. Each time this happens I sincerely believe I will remember details long enough to stop somewhere, find pen and paper, and write it all down. Never happens. Later I can recall that someone told me this or that, but the details have fled like finches on a fall zephyr.
If you’ve told me one of these accounts but didn’t write it out yourself, please go to the simple survey page and do so now. Thank you!
The reports below, except for the ones given to me verbally, are quoted directly from each person’s note or email.
April 2010 [survey response]
from John Sanker regarding an encounter in Tennessee (where panthers do not officially live)
Seen at about 8:30 am on April 30th on Hwy 70 between Liberty and Sparta, Tn. This cat was approx. 80 to 90 lbs. and ran in front of our car. Due to the cliff on the south side of the road he was forced to stop and look at us so we got a good look at him. AWESOME.
October 2009 [survey response]
from Tim Rowland of North Syracuse, New York
Hi, my son Tyler (17) and I saw a black panther in Childwold NY this last weekend. The cat walked across the logging road just in front of our 4 wheeler ( 75 feet +/- ). We saw this cat as plain-as-day. Any questions plz drop me an email… Tim
To some questions I posed in a reply, Tim responded:
Hi David, we don’t know the gender of the cat. It cross just in front of us on a logging road, it seemed to be casually crossing (loping along). The part of the property that the cat was in was low marsh land with some pine and thick brush. We were on our way back to camp for lunch when we saw the cat, so it was around 12:30 to 1:30 in the afternoon on Sat. 10/10/09. (I won’t forget that date now.) The sun was out and the temp was about 45 to 50. It is pre-deer season here, so no one had a gun on them, just my camera packed in the wheeler box =0( . We stopped where it crossed and didn’t see any great prints. The cat was VERY BLACK. My brother saw a black cat on the property many years ago too. The NY DEC said there are no cats (big cats) in the Adirondacks, my son and I saw what we saw and we don’t care who believes us or not. David you can call the house at (315-xxx-xxxx), we live in North Syracuse. My son and I would like to know if these cats are native to the Adirondack Mts? Thanks for listening and believing in our rare moment… Tim
Spring 2009 [phone interview]
from Nina M. of Pittsfield, Maine
In a phone conversation during the summer of 2009, Nina described this encounter. She was walking her two dogs, one a black lab mix, the other a yellow lab mix, on a snowmobile-ATV trail in Pittsfield. She takes this trail as many as four times a day, and she was on the first leg of the walk, where the trail follows the railroad tracks roughly a quarter mile from either of two schools, MCI being one. The time was 2:00 to 2:30 p.m.
Ahead of her she noticed what she at first thought was a big dog off-leash, by itself. She decided to hold back with her leashed dogs and see what the other animal did. It seemed to retreat casually from the three of them. She moved cautiously and followed. The animal crossed to the other side of the trail and that’s when she had a side view of it. What she found striking, she said, was its huge, heavy tail.
As it continued on its path, she also moved forward with her dogs, which were utterly silent about what they were seeing. When it moved, she moved. When it stopped, they stopped. When she had approached within what she guessed was not much over 20 feet, the cat crouched. The dogs, she said, were absolutely still as they faced it down. She described that at this close range she saw the classic markings on the face — dark around the eyes, and the body was of a uniform color although more gray than she would have expected. The end of the tail was black or very dark.
After several moments of the face-off, the cat gave ground and walked into the brush beside the trail. The cat was bigger than either of her dogs, so she estimates that it was over 75 pounds.
[I learned of this encounter through a mutual acquaintance, who described Nina as naturally reticent. She is a professional woman and wants to remain credible in all matters. I suspect that her close approach was something substantially greater than 20 feet — more likely twice that distance, since a person’s appreciation of scale is thrown off in a wide open space outdoors. Otherwise, down to the behavior of the dogs, I find this account chillingly credible.]
Fall 2007 and March 2009 [survey response]
from Nancy Dumond in Aroostook County
It was fall of 2007, I was riding horse behind another horse and rider. The rider in front reported seeing a LARGE black cat with a VERY long tail cross the path. Location: Van Buren, Maine. We were in woods about to enter fields about 1/3 mi south of Route 1 within 1/4 mile of homes.
Yesterday (3/2/09) one of my dogs started to chase something off the farm… I followed him through a small stand of evergreens to a large field where he was barking at something. Way across the field, about 1/4 mile from where I was standing I could see a black animal moving across the snow… at times it looked like two. I returned to the barn for snow shoes. My dog weighs about 90#s and could walk on the crusty snow part of the time but was falling through in places. From where he was when he originally sighted the animal (s) they had to be within 100 feet of where I was feeding horses. We ventured out to look for tracks, which were difficult to find because the snow had a thick crust, latent tracks from trail riding and dogs joining me were apparent since although we’ve had plenty of snow since our last trip, we had some rain and melting which made the old tracks stand up in some places. Finally, on some fairly fresh snowmobile tracks, I found some tracks the same size as my dogs AND some tiny ones, like a small kitty would make. On the way home we found some older of the same about 1000 ft from the house. (The farm is only 12 acres, the field we crossed is not mine but is about 30 acres.) ALSO where the animal(s) were was only a hundred feet or so from where the animal was sighted in 2007… What I saw yesterday was black.
June 2008 [survey response]
from Gary Cameron of Caribou, Maine
On Sunday, Father’s Day, 2008, I was working my back field with the tractor. My dog, Trapper, as usual, was hunting mice and typically headed for the Caribou Stream on occasion to cool off. He stopped and acted different, looking at me, then the brook, like something was there. I drove the tractor to the stream bank and watched, when I saw a cougar on the north bank that I had indadvertantly chased to the other side, and it was attempting to slink away in tall grass. No mistake, it was all wet with a few burdocks, long tail with black tip, and a toothy smile from a relatively small head. No wonder Trapper was acting strangely. I live on the West side of Caribou, the Washburn Road, US Rte #167, with 6 acres of land. I’ve been in the outdoors all my life, a former Registered Guide, and no mistake about it. It was definitely a cougar.
October 2004 and October 2005 [personal acquaintance]
Brynn Kimball was driving on the River Road in the town of Chester, in the vicinity of Exit 227 of I-95 — the Lincoln exit. It was in broad daylight, and she saw ahead a large cat by the side of the road that turned and walked away as her car approached. She slowed and watched it go into the woods. Brynn is a born country girl from Lincoln and bluntly avers that there is nothing else it could have been but a mountain lion, in her words.
Twelve months later Brynn was once again on the same section of the River Road. This time the panther that she saw sat calmly by the side of the road and regarded her car after she stopped to look at it. Eventually it stood and walked away, disappearing into the woods. Brynn’s two encounters were in almost precisely the same location as my October 2003 encounter.
around fall of 1997 [survey response]
from “sam” in New Brunswick
i know i saw an “easteren panther” regretably i was drinking at the time, it was in the fall of the year about 12 or so years ago, we has just left the brookside mall area, and went the long way home through the royal road, through burtts corner ending in mactaquac. we had just left the royal road when we came to a turn where a wood road was on our right, when i first noticed something walking of the edge of the road i got excited because i thought i was seeing a coyote, (i love watching wildlife) but the closer we got, i noticed the coat wasn’t right for a coyote, then i noticed the tail was solid and long hanging way down, i could not see the end of the tail because old long grass was in the way, also it was a very light color, it just sauntered off the road, the driver never saw it, but i know what i saw, i might have been drinking at the time, but i know what i saw, because again i would have been just as happy seeing a coyote
ps my dad and my grandfather were both hunters and trappers (i also hunted with them) i have seen a bobcat, several coyotes,deer, fisher, beaver i have also helped with their pelts etc so again i am sure i seen a “eastern panther”
The following reports were received in the wake of the Bangor Daily News feature of 4 December 2010:
A resident of Orringotn, Maine reported the following three encounters:
1. Son had a possible sighting September 2009 in the woods near Johnny Brook in Orrington. He saw a large rusty-colored creature “slinking” silently thru the woods about 50′ from him. He ran away as fast as he could. We also found a deer skeleton in a tree about 10′ up.
2. About 15 years ago, we had a large cat (60-70 pounds) walk across our front yard toward our house. My husband and I watched it come toward us, I grabbed a camera, but it had turned and slinked off into the woods (toward Johnny Brook). It was NOT a bobcat, as we have them around and see them regularly. And the fur was not at all like a bobcat. This cat was NOT fluffy. This cat was the color of winter (gray) deer, was long, muscular and rugged and had a gait that was synonymous with lions/big cats. I remember how his shoulder blades moved up and down, and his neck slightly lowered when he walked. When it turned, the thick tail was as long as its body, hanging low and curled up on the end. I will NEVER forget his face… big wide set eyes looking at us (on our deck), wide nose and muzzle. It was a mountain lion.
3. Husband saw one crossing the road in Brewer by the solid waste dump 3 years ago. It is not very populated around there… very swampy and wooded. This was at night.
We used to have a lot of rabbits, raccoons, around out home… no more. In the summer of 2009 we had 7 deer that regularly walked the deer trails (1 male, 3 female, 3 young). We have only seen 2 deer this year.
August 2009 Milbridge, Maine
An anonymous contributor wrote:
me and the wife know what we saw and it was definatly a mountain lion / couger crossing the road
[This report does not provide details but sets a time and location that may be corroborated by others.]
from John Barker and Bim Finemore of Bridgewater, Maine
About 1959 while traveling 2 miles down the railroad tracks from the village of Bridgewater, Maine one November morning hunting deer, at a distance about 300 yds I witnessed an animal going from west to east over the tracks very fast. Tan in colour the only real distinguishing element was a long tail. As a high school student I had no idea what it was and mountain lion did not enter my mind. Since then I think this is what I saw 51 years ago. To add to this decision about 10 yeas ago on a sunny Sunday morning (maybe 0900) while traveling up the “tracks” (tracks were taken up, but still referred to as “down the tracks”) in my old Land Rover my wife said “What is that?” About 50 yards there stood a black panther side to us. It looked just like the picture of the panther painted on the gym wall of the Mars Hill Gym where both my wife and I worked – she as a teacher and I the shop assistant. The wife had been watching it for about a minute before she drew my attention to it. I had been watching the track road because of the poor road conditions. Literally, in the blink of an eye the cat leaped off the road into the woods and was gone. I intended to get a track, but the ground was dry and hard and nothing was visible. Since that time a number of people have seen not only a black one, but also a tan one although the black one seems more prevelant. About 5 years ago a trapper, Bim Finemore from Bridgewater, arrived one December morning and got me to go “down the tracks” to look at some tracks on a pond he was working. He thought they were moose tracks at first due to the size and that they were breaking thru shale ice on the edge of the pond. Due to the fluffy snow it was difficult to positively identify the tracks. Upon returning home I checked a book on tracks and made note of the measurements of track and stride and and noted that there could be a tail drag. I went back down the railroad tracks to the pond and the tracks and stride conformed to the given measurements and in the fluffy snow there was the tail drag of such demensions as it should have been. After that the panther tracks were seen by a number of people in various places within a mile. Moving forward to the last couple of years I had a good friend, who while fighting cancer, made it his pastime to drive down the tracks nearly every day and sit for 2 to 4 hours and watch game. This person caught several glimpses of the cat. While carrying a video camera, he was frustrated by the fact that he could not get the camera going fast enough to get video of animal. He has recently died having never gotten a video of the cat. In all of his sightings he said the cat was always moving fast when it crossed the “track road”. All of these sightings were taken within a mile and a half along the the track road and the pond was a 3 minute walk from the track. A nearby gravel pit has yeilded a number of tracks in the snow when the cat seems to be in the area. The mountain lion is definitely here in Bridgewater, Maine.
from Linda Hoglund of Franklin, Maine
you asked if anyone had a story about mountain lion sightings, i do at that. 14 years ago, in franklin, in the middle of the woods, my husband and i bought 22 acres with a steam down back. we put ourselves a mile into the woods away from people. we have a mile long dirt road to drive before we hit the main road. it was 4 in the morning, slighty foggy, we’re going slow, as the road’s not made for more than 10 miles an hour, there it was, crossing right in front of us, we stopped, put on the high beams, and watched it for 30 secs as it walked off into the woods. both my husband and i said holy…., that was a mountain lion, and were very excited to see it. i grew up in the wilderness of beddinton lake, with my dad an avid hunter, tracker, outdoorsman. i knew every track of the animals that lived on, or near that lake. i,ve spend more time in the woods than anywhere else, and i know what we saw. the funny thing is franklin is full of mountain lion sightings, alot of people here have seen em. that’s my story for the last 14 years, and i’m sticking to it. hope you’ve sceen one too, if not, i hope you get that chance someday. it’s awsome!! sincerly, linda hoglund, franklin maine.
Go to the survey and add your own encounter.
RM in Aroostook County contributed this:
My wife and I saw one chasing a moose across the old rail bed coming from Bridgewater to Monticello fifteen years ago or so. The moose was going full speed with the panther chasing it; it stopped in the middle of the rail bed, looked at us and kept going. We also saw one in the late 80’s out back of FS’s farm on the Packard Road in Bridgewater just sitting sunning itself. And my wife saw one in the early 90’s in our meadow on the Fletcher Road in Monticello; when it saw her, it took off into the trees. The next week a farm hand on the next farm reported seeing it also.
SH, who did not say where he lives, contributed this:
First as the grandson of a real farmer I have a small want-a-be farm. 72 ac with about 8 in active cultivation from a 3 ac fruit orchard, 3 ac in berries, and 2 ac in row crops. my driveway is 1/2 mile long and that is the distance to the nearest house. Due to location and the fact that I have a real job of 50 plus hours a week the wildlife think that this is a food plot. One day in september 2004 I came home and saw a partially covered deer beside the field. It was between 40 and 60 lbs. My house sits in the middle of the fields with 100 to 200 yards of visibility in 320 degrees. I thought bear so I set up to watch the kill from my house with a 30-06 with a 3-9 power scope. The kill was at 110 yards. I was suprised to see a cat come to the kill. It was bear season not cat season so I watched as it picked the deer up and walked directly toward me dragging the deer between its legs. When the cat was about 35 feet from the house (between my pickup and front door) I saw the tail for the first time. It changed from being a huge bobcat to a do-I-kill-it-or-not. We have 4 jack russels to keep the wild life out of the crops 12 -15# dogs. They would be no match for that 70-90# cat, but would not know it. I watched it walk 150 more yards to the west to my wood lot. I have not seen her or her tracks since so I think I made the right call. I live by the rule “know your target and beyond” but my jacks know when I pick up a gun they go to the door whining with their tails wagging.
HM, who did not say where she lives, contributed this:
My husband and I definitely saw a cougar in the mid 1980s. We never reported it because everyone told us we could not have seen one. We were traveling on a road on Russell Mountain (Piscataquis county) when we came around the corner and looked him/her right in the face. It was traveling across the road so when we suddenly came around the corner we would have hit it if we were going faster. It looked me right in the eye for about 5 seconds then dragged its long tail across the road and ran into the woods. When I saw the tail I was absolutely certain what it was. Many years ago I had regular contact with black panthers and I know that form. It was light brown, very muscular, with short, rounded ears and a long muscular tail. It looked very healthy and was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, we did not get out and inspect for tracks or tail dragging marks, and we had no camera. I am only reporting it now so that you know of other places where they have been. I would dearly love to sight another one!
From the above list a couple of slight trends seem to emerge. Daylight encounters dominate. Nighttime encounters may seem absurd anyway — how ‘ya gonna see a black panther at night? — but are not out of the question, at least for a light-colored cat. (My best encounter was after 10 p.m.) Also, an autumn sighting seems more likely than most other times of year. With the additional reports gleaned since the Bangor Daily News feature of 4 December 2010, (some of which await witnesses’ permission to use their names), these big cats also seem to like a railroad right-of-way. And why not? Edge – the area where open space meets forest, for instance, and where dry ground meets water, is excellent hunting ground. What’s more, railroads offer a predator terrific long-distance views with the advantage of great cover.
This is far too little data from which to draw conclusions, but to argue that the eastern panther is absolutely “extirpated” from Maine (while it is not extirpated from New Brunswick) is to dismiss every one of these accounts as… well, as sightings of hundred-pound fishers or raccoons instead.
In the years since the above encounters were added I have received more, and the Bangor Daily News has run another article or two on the subject. I will augment this page with those reports as I have the time.
A couple things stood out to me about my 2003 sighting, which I estimate was a 150-pound cat (medium tan color): low, *long* profile, and the tail was held tightly against the rump, but long enough for the tip to drag on the ground except that any puma I’ve seen (in zoos too) naturally keeps it hooked horizontally so it won’t drag — except in snow.
In my 2003 encounter as well as in my 1974 sighting the cat in each case was moving fast and very level and torpedo-like.
Your only other possibility among cats above 35-40 pounds is a lynx, but they are absolutely deep woods predators. They are shorter-bodied with hind legs markedly longer than the front ones. I don’t believe you could mistake the fur of a lynx for a puma nor probably even a bobcat. The face of a puma/cougar is decidedly lion-ish while the face of the other two is very domestic cat-like.
And by the way, even a very large lynx will seldom reach 40 pounds. Think of a dog you know that is around 50 pounds and ask yourself whether the cat you saw was that large or larger. A lynx is a little bigger than a bobcat (which is 15-20 pounds on average, not much more than a large house cat) and a lynx is taller than a bobcat. The tracks made by a lynx can be as large as or even bigger than the tracks of a cougar, though. A lynx’s hind feet are very broad.
So, if it’s your guess that the cat you saw was greater than 50 pounds and it was truly of uniform color with no pointy tufts at the tips of the ears, then your only candidate is the cougar. Congratulations!