Lions in the mountains of Pa.?
The Erie Times-News recently ran an interesting article about possible mountain lion sightings in Northeast Township east of Erie.
From what I have observed as a seasonal resident of the Warren, Pa., area for many years and from what I have read (such as in Penn Lines magazine and on the Internet) I believe that there are cougars living in isolated wild locales in northern Pennsylvania.
So perhaps it’s possible that a few could have strayed into the Northeast area and might be responsible for sightings recounted in article by Ron Leonardi.
Despite the numerous “stories,” the Pennsylvania Game Commission always rejects the idea that there is a native wild mountain lion population in the state, saying (as the commission’s Clink Deniker did in the article) that if any do exist in the wild, they are perhaps former pets owners decided to release, or that sightings are actually of bobcats.
I have read that the Game Commission downplays reports of cougar sightings out of fear that sportsmen will be less apt to buy hunting licenses if they (and their wives) fear that there are cougars out there in Penn’s Woods ready to pounce.
As to Deniker’s argument, I doubt a former pet puma could live year after year in the portion of the Allegheny National Forest where I have seen distinct tracks in wet sand as well as trademark scat.
Mr. Deniker also says that there have been no reports of cougars being struck on highways or shot by hunters during deer season. This could be explained by the small number of secretive, nocturnal creatures being able to stay out of the way of hunters. Cougars may also be smarter than your average ’coon or ’possum and thus avoid getting run over.
Despite what a Northeast resident said in the Erie paper’s article about a cougar track he photographed being six-inches in length, the cougar tracks I have seen (and identified as such in a Peterson field guide to wild animal tracks) have measured about three inches square.
In response to the fears expressed by the Northeast resident in the article, I might add that I have never heard of an attack on a human by an eastern cougar.
Robert R. Stanger, Boardman