Pennsylvania cougar|shearluck||08/30/07 at 12:57:22|shearluck|xx|0||[quote]From thw Williamsport (PA) Sun-Gazette: 1 Aug. 2007
Paw prints on road has local man asking: Could cougars be here?

Recently, Leonard Sacavage of Loyalsock Township has been seeing suspicious
footprints near his Walters Road home, a few miles from Montoursville.

For the past month, he and his wife, Violet, have seen the prints on Starr
Road every morning when they walk; most recently on Monday.

"I don't know if they're cougar tracks or not," Sacavage said Monday night.
"I think they are."

The most recent tracks consist of mud on the paved road. Each print is
roughly 3 inches long by 2 inches wide. From the back of the hind paw to the
front of the lead paw, there's a separation of about 21 inches. The tracks
run east to west, from one cornfield to another.

The answer may be as elusive as the animal itself, but residents question if
mountain lions could be in the area.

The mountain lion, known by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as the eastern
cougar, once roamed the eastern United States. For years, the animal was
believed to be extinct, but was placed on the list of endangered and
threatened wildlife in 1973.

Sacavage is used to seeing wildlife near his rural home. In about 30 years
of living there, he's seen lots of deer, turkey, skunks and occasional foxes
and bears. As of this past year, Sacavage thinks he can add big cats to the

In February, Sacavage reported to the Sun-Gazette that he believed he saw a
mountain lion across the road from his home. He said it was a little more
than knee high, was running and had a long tail.

In a report released subsequent to Sacavage's February sighting, the state
Game Commission said the animal was a bobcat.

"Don't tell me it's a bobcat," Sacavage said. "I know better than that."

Dennis Wydra of Elysburg studies mountain lions and has been recording
alleged sightings for about two years when he is contacted.

"I do believe we have a lot of cats in Pennsylvania," Wydra said. If cougars
are found here, they could be former captives, he added.

"I have had reports of people seeing mountain lions in Lycoming County,
including this area," Wydra said. He clarified "this area" as the
Williamsport area.

Photos of the Starr Road tracks were e-mailed to Wydra Tuesday morning. He
intends to review the prints with other researchers and return an opinion.
The final opinion was not returned as of press time, but Wydra said there is
a possibility the prints could show a mountain lion.

"I won't rule one way or another until I consult with the others," he said.

Loretta Fredin of Warrensville said in a Monday telephone interview that she
saw a cougar locally during the fall of 2006. She was driving from
Williamsport to her home when she saw a big cat on Warrensville Road.

Fredin said the animal she saw had a long tail, was slightly larger than a
Labrador retriever and had spots. According to Wydra, young mountain lions
can have spots for up to a year.

Fredin was so close to the animal that she had to slam her vehicle brakes to
avoid hitting it. After she did this, the animal stared at her. Fredin
conducted Internet research to compare cougars to the animal she saw.

"I definitely think it was a cougar," Fredin said.

Wydra has received three reports of Warrensville Road mountain lion
sightings in the past two years. This count does not include the Fredin

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has been conducting an eastern cougar
study, Diana Weaver, a department spokeswoman, said.

Weaver said the fish and wildlife service announced it would begin
collecting data during late February and do so until a "cut-off" date of
late March. However, the department will continue to collect information on
eastern cougars, as it would for any endangered species.

Those who have scientific data to submit can e-mail
Those who have non-scientific data can send it to
Weaver said hair analysis, carcasses or quality footprint photos could be
considered scientific evidence. Non-scientific evidence pertains to "I saw a
cougar" stories.

According to Weaver, the fish and wildlife service has received a lot of
eastern cougar information for the purpose of the study. A considerable
amount of it came from Pennsylvania.

"We are in the process of analyzing this and should have results at the end
of the year," she said.

The department is striving to determine if there is a continuous population
of eastern cougars. If the population is non-continuous, cougars found in
the east could have been transplanted. For example, cougars of South
American origin could have got to the eastern United States somehow, Weaver

A voice mail left for Rick Macklem, a spokesman at the state Game Commission's
northcentral region office, was not returned.
[/quote]|| Re: Pennsylvania cougar|shearluck||08/30/07 at 13:07:04|shearluck|xx|0||[quote]From the Williamsport (PA) Sun-Gazette: 2 Aug. 2007
Officials: Canine made paw prints

The experts agree - paw prints found on a Loyalsock Township road were not
made by a mountain lion.

State Game Commission officials and mountain lion "experts" formed a
consensus that a canine made the tracks on Starr Road, a few miles from

Rick Macklem, information education supervisor at the state Game Commission's
northcentral region office, said he and Tony Ross, wildlife management
supervisor-regional biologist, looked at pictures of the tracks.

"Both of us are in agreement it's definitely not a cougar or mountain lion,"
Macklem said. "It's in the canine family."

The tracks could have been from a coyote or someone's pet dog, he said.

The tracks showed a considerable amount of openness between the toes and
main pad, which is consistent with a canine track, Macklem said. For a cat,
the space is much tighter.

Macklem's office receives calls throughout the year from people who believe
they have mountain lion evidence, such as suspicious tracks or droppings.
Officials who inspect the evidence conclude it actually is from any of a
large range of animals, but not mountain lions.

Some people even present photos of alleged mountain lions, Macklem said, but
they actually depict bobcats.

"A lot of people have never seen a bobcat in the wild and that's
understandable," he said.

Dennis Wydra of Elysburg is a retired Mansfield University teacher education
professor with an interest in mountain lions. For the past two years, he has
recorded alleged mountain lion sightings from throughout Pennsylvania.

Wydra and two other consultants reviewed the photos of the Starr Road

Wydra, Steve Mohr and Roxanne Tessitore agreed that a canine made the
tracks. Mohr is a wild animal farmer in Bainbridge and a retired state game
commissioner. Tessitore is a researcher based near Albany, N.Y., who is
involved with the Web site.

Dirt makes a better surface for track marks to be examined than mud tracks
on paved roads do, Wydra said

"The mud stuck to the paw and not the claw mark," he said, adding that if
the tracks had been made on a dirt surface, nails would have likely been

According to Tessitore's Web site, prints left by a dog often show claws,
while cats have retractable claws that won't show in tracks. Most felines
have an overall round shape to the paw print.

Each Starr Road print was more elongated - roughly 3 inches long by 2 inches

Wydra believes western mountain lions are present in the state. The ones
here are former captives, he said.

Reports of sightings come to Wydra from many counties north of Interstate
80. He also has received as many as 40 accounts in the past two years from
residents in Lycoming County.

According to Jerry Feaser, state Game Commission press secretary, no proof
exists of mountain lions living in the state. Although he doesn't believe in
the existence of a continuous population, he admits a captive mountain lion
could depart from its owner.

The Loyalsock Township man who noticed the Starr Road tracks maintains the
possibility that they could have been made by a cougar.

"I don't agree with them," Leonard Sacavage said of the naysayers. "They
will not admit to cougars being in the state."

He thinks the tracks were most likely made by either a coyote or cougar.