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Trained observer spots mountain lion on Route 3

Dr. Jameson “Jim” Chace, who teaches environmental studies at R.I.-based Salve Regina University, is convinced he spotted a mountain lion (Felis concolor) on June 16 on Route 3 between Lancaster and Whitefield. Courtesy photo.
June 27, 2012
LANCASTER — Jameson "Jim" Chace, Ph.D., an associate professor of Environmental Studies in the Biology and Biomedical Sciences Department at Salve Regina University in Newport, R. I., reported that he spotted a very large cat — a mountain lion — in a low wet area between Lancaster and Whitefield at about 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 16, while driving south on Route 3.

"The 'Felis concolor,' also known as a puma or catamount, crossed the road in front of my truck on a cloudless day," Chace said in an e-mail alert sent to retired USFS forester Dave Govatski of Jefferson. "It was "close enough to see clearly, but far enough away that I didn't need to tap my brakes at 50 m.p.h. I've seen lions before in Arizona (four times) and Florida (once), and it was in Arizona that I saw them very, very close at less than 20 meters, he explained.

"I know my mammals, and I know a mountain lion when I see it," Chace declared unequivocally.

"The cat crossed the road quickly, from west to east, and took up about three-quarters of my lane," he explained. "It ran, not bounded, with quick foot movements holding the back horizontal, the head lower than the back and the long tail held just off the ground."

When asked in an e-mail exchange to provide additional details, Chace replied, "There is no doubt what it was; its behavior was normal, and I only saw it for a moment as it crossed Route 3. But it was full daylight, and I had an unobstructed view. Very long and low, about the height of a large German shepherd — long tail and small head."

A trained observer, Chace lists a number of credentials that serve to boost his credibility: he is president of the Center for Northern Forest Research, whose mission is to is to foster understanding of and appreciation for the unique biological communities of the Northern Forest, with emphasis on the Nulhegan Basin in northeastern Vermont; secretary of the Rhode-Island-based Aquidneck Land Trust; and Research Award Chair of the Wilson Ornithological Society, which maintains a research library at the University of Michigan. Govatski serves on the board of the Center for Northern Forest Research.Chace earned his B.S. in 1989 at Eastern Connecticut State University and both his Masters (1995) and his Ph.D. (2001) at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Rumors also have been circulating that Milou Thayer and Pidy Rochefort, both of Lancaster, had spotted a cat unfamiliar to either of them on the edge of the woods while playing a round of golf at the nine-hole course at the Mountain View Grand. Thayer explained in a Sunday afternoon telephone interview that the cat had stayed in place until they moved their golf carts.

Thayer said that she and her golfing partner were bewildered as to what they had observed while frozen in place for an estimated five minutes, so they checked photographs and wildlife sites on a computer and concluded they had seen a Canada lynx, "Lynx Canadensis."

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