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Fish and Game reports possible mountain lion sighting in Barnstead

September 22, 2009
BARNSTEAD — The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department reported late last week that one of its staff members spotted what they believed to be a mountain lion in Barnstead while following up on a routine report of a mountain lion sighting.

Fish and Game officials believe the animal is most likely an illegally released pet, since mountain lions have not been known to exist in the wild further east than Florida and further north than Iowa since the latter part of the 19th Century.

"Survival of this type of animal is typically extremely low, as they normally do not have the developed abilities to catch prey on a consistent basis and/or may have been de-clawed," Fish and Game Wildlife Division Chief Steve Weber explained in a press release issued on Sept. 18.

"If the animal [seen in Barnstead] does survive, we would expect to collect hard evidence of its existence in the form of a picture, tracks, scat and/or DNA evidence," he added.

According to information provided by Fish and Game, mountain lions were extirpated from their range in the eastern United States in the late 1800s, with the exception of the endangered Florida panther. The non-profit research organization cougarnet.org reported last week that there have been only four confirmed sightings of mountain lions in the Northeast since 1938. If verified, the latest reported sighting in Barnstead would be the fifth.

"The Fish and Game Department receives numerous reports of mountain lions every year," Weber said. "We still have no documentation to confirm their presence.

"While we do not believe this is a harbinger of a recovering population of mountain lions in New Hampshire," he added, "it does add one more credible report to several others we have received over the years."

The Mountain Lion Foundation recommends the following strategies for preventing encounters with wild animals, and ensuring personal safety in the event of an encounter.

-When it comes to personal safety, always be aware of your surroundings, wherever you are; conduct yourself and attend to children and dependents accordingly.

-Landscape for safety, remove vegetation that provides cover for mountain lions, and remove plants that attract wildlife such as deer or raccoons. By attracting those animals, you will naturally attract their predators, as well.

-Do not feed wild animals, and do not leave pet food outside. Both may attract mountain lions by attracting their prey.

-Keep pets secure; roaming pets are easy prey for mountain lions.

-Confine and secure any livestock in pens, sheds, or barns, especially at night.

-Do not approach a mountain lion. Most want to avoid human contact, so give the animal the time and space to steer clear of you if spotted.

-Supervise children, especially outdoors between dusk and dawn, and educate them about mountain lions and other animals they might encounter in the wild.

-Always hike, backpack, or camp with a companion in wild areas.

-Never run past or from a mountain lion. This may trigger their instinct to chase. If facing a mountain lion, make eye contact, stand your ground, and pick up any small children that may be nearby without bending over or turning away (if possible).

-Never bend or crouch down in the presence of a mountain lion. Doing so causes a human being to resemble one of the four-legged animals that mountain lions see as their prey.

Crouching down or bending over also makes the neck and back of the head vulnerable.

-If encountering a mountain lion, make yourself appear larger and more aggressive by opening your jacket, raising your arms, or throwing stones and branches without turning away. Wave your raised arms slowly, and speak slowly, firmly, and loudly to disrupt and discourage the animal's predatory instinct.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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