Despite the fact that mountain lions are no longer considered to be indigenous to New England since the eastern cougar subspecies was hunted to extinction in the 1800’s, people of good character and reputation still claim to have seen these big cats throughout the Berkshires. Although the claims and sightings are numerous, they still have yet to be substantiated by either photographic or video evidence. As such, local as well as federal government agencies are denying the existence of the eastern mountain lion.
Update: June 2nd, 2011
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has officially declared that the eastern cougar is extinct. This decision was made back on March 2nd, 2011 and the eastern cougar will now be removed from the endangered species list on which it has been listed since 1973.
So what exactly are people seeing then? Most wildlife experts will agree that there hasn’t been a breeding mountain lion population in the Berkshires or anywhere East of the Mississippi River (with the exception of the Florida panther) since 1900. There is a chance of mistaken identity where for example a bobcat or even a larger house cat could be mistaken for a cougar. In the event of an actually cougar siting in the Eastern United States however, wildlife experts have typically found the cougar to be either a released pet or a western cougar that has somehow “wandered” to the East.
If you have any stories or actual proof regarding mountain lion sightings in the Berkshires or anywhere else in the Northeast for that matter please leave a comment below.