If Eastern Cougars are Extinct, Why Are They Spotted All Over near Montrose, Pennsylvania?
Some say that mountain lion sightings in New York and Pennsylvania are just as much folklore as bigfoot sightings. Others swear that mountain lions most certainly roam the rural woods of the Twin Tiers. So, who's right?
In recent weeks, there have been several reported sightings of mountain lions in rural areas of the Twin Tiers. On Tuesday, September 28, the Choconut Inn in Friendsville, Pennsylvania jumped in on the conversation with a Facebook post that read, "Hi everyone there's been numerous mountain lion sightings by Quaker Lake. Please use caution. Especially at night."
The post by Choconut Inn garnered over 100 comments which ranged from those who swear they've seen the big cat with their own eyes to those who say it's more likely that what people have seen are just big bobcats. Obviously, people have a lot of opinions on whether or not mountain lions have found their way back to the Twin Tiers.
In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unofficially deemed the eastern cougar (or mountain lion) extinct. Then, in 2018, it officially declared that the eastern version of the animal was in fact extinct.
While there is no argument that cougars (also called mountain lions) as a whole are very much still alive, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claims that the version of the animal that was once located in the eastern part of the United States has actually been extinct for some 70 years.
What then are people actually seeing? Have bobcats grown in size and are they being confused for the massively large mountain lion? Or, have mountain lions from the west coast somehow managed to travel east into New York and Pennsylvania without detection? Even National Geographic refers to the Mountain Lion as the "Bigfoot of Big Cats" because it is so elusive and mystical, even.
In 2011, a male mountain lion was found to have traveled nearly 2,000 miles from "South Dakota through Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York, and was killed on a Connecticut highway. A cougar of unknown origin was also killed in Kentucky in December 2014," according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
It isn't completely out of the realm of possibility that a rogue mountain lion from the west coast could have found its way into the Twin Tiers and that is what residents of the Brackney, Pennsylvania area have seen.
A 2016 study conducted by wildlife experts claimed that reintroducing mountain lions to the Northeast would reduce white-tailed deer density which in turn would reduce deer/vehicle collisions by 22 percent, preventing "21,400 human injuries, 155 fatalities, and $2.13 billion in preventive costs within just 30 years of reintroduction.'
The same study also took a look at which states would be most habitable for mountain lions and those states were New Hampshire, West Virginia, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Still, questions remain. Have mountain lions been migrating from the west to the east? Has the government been slowly and stealthy reintroducing the animal to the Northeast? Or, has the average bobcat just grown so large that people are confused about what they're seeing?
It might be years before any solid answers are provided which means the folklore and debates about mountain lion sightings in the Twin Tiers of New York and Pennsylvania will most certainly rage on.