WINCHESTER, Mass. – A Boston suburb resident reported seeing a mountain lion in town earlier this week, although the last confirmed sighting of this species in Massachusetts was 156 years ago.
The Winchester resident told police the animal was spotted in the Dunster Lane, Pepper Hill Drive neighborhood on Tuesday. Massachusetts Environmental Police responded and saw paw prints that strongly resembled those of a mountain lion — also called a cougar, puma or catamount. The sighting remains under investigation.
The last confirmed mountain lion sighting in Massachusetts was in 1858, in the western part of the state. Numerous sightings have been reported since then, but none has been confirmed. Still, experts with the National Wildlife Federation noted a precedent for such an animal to travel long distances and turn up in New England.
“The mountain lion that was killed on the road in Connecticut a few years back was a tagged animal that originated in South Dakota,” Hector Galbraith, a scientist in the federation’s northeast regional office, said in a statement. “So it’s certainly possible for a wild mountain lion to get to New England under its own steam.”
Galbraith was referring to a 140-pound mountain lion that was struck and killed by a sport utility vehicle on a highway in Milford, Conn., in June 2011 after an apparent 2,000-mile journey from the Black Hills region of South Dakota.
David Mizejewski, a naturalist for the National Wildlife Federation, said people can often be far off the mark when estimating the size and weight of an animal they have seen.
Some Winchester residents are skeptical of the mountain lion sighting. One man said he spotted a “fisher cat,” a medium-sized mammal in the weasel family, and thinks that’s probably what the person who reported the mountain lion saw.