Harrigan's hunch on cougars gets a boost


July 14, 2011
For four decades, outdoor writer John Harrigan has been chasing stories about local sighting of infamous mountain lions. He has compiled thick files of reports that have convinced him that the animal exists, but up until now the evidence was scant.

"I don't have one shadow of doubt that there are mountain lions out there," he said.

Wild life officials are equally adamant that they don't exist locally and have repeatedly denied the possibly of native cougars, which they insist have been gone from the area for generations.

These predatory cats are quite a sight (this writer has seen one in a zoo and spoken to several local people who have said they've seen one). They are large, weighing up to 200-pounds and very elusive, but it is their tails that average 2-3 feet long or one-third of their body length-- that is what most people remember.

Three weeks ago, Harrigan's hunch got a boost when a full-fledged cougar was killed by a motorist on the Merritt Parkway in Milford, Connecticut, 90 miles from New York City. Leading up to the accident, several people reported seeing an animal looking strikingly similar to a cougar. Tests, which have yet to be released, should be able to prove whether the animal was a domestic pet based upon diet and vaccinations.

Still, New Hampshire Fish and Game officials aren't convinced. Ted W. Walski, a wildlife biologist with N.H. Fish and Game, told the Keene Sentinel recently, "I understand what it takes to have a viable population. I've been around 40 years, and I haven't come across any sightings or data that makes me believe there's a native population."

This attitude irks, Harrigan, who for many years was a newspaper publisher in the region (including the Coos County Democrat). "They're in denial," he said, "Why can't they be diplomatic? They continue to insult people's intelligence."

(Anyone who has seen a cougar is invited to share their experience with Jeff Woodburn at jeff@WhiteMtNews.com.)

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