ANCRAM—It was definitely a big cat. Everyone agrees on that.
But whether it was a bobcat or cougar is a matter of opinion. Yet many believe the larger of the two cats, cougars, also called mountain lions, are here and they have seen them.
Frank Ammendolea has a trail camera set up on his property about a mile northwest of the Ancram hamlet. A couple of weeks ago while checking the images captured, Mr. Ammendolea came upon several frames of a large feline skulking around his yard.
Since the usual suspects caught on his camera are deer, Mr. Ammendolea told The Columbia Paper by phone this week, he decided to email the somewhat unusual images to Town Supervisor Art Bassin, with the note: “I was reviewing pictures of my property, and came across five night shots of the cougar. I have attached them to this email for your review. These are from April 27, 2017. I think this shows that the cougar is still around.”
Mr. Bassin, who likes to keep residents apprised of all types of animal activity–lost and found dogs and cats, wandering peacocks, escaped farm animals and moment-to-moment bear sightings–broadcast the message and photos to his Ancram email list of 951 people.
Mr. Ammendolea, a 40+ year Ancram resident, said he referred to the cat as a cougar because it was so “big” and a couple of times his daughter has heard an animal outside making a sound that he described as “a roar.”
Mr. Bassin reports receiving about 30 comments in response to his cougar versus bobcat query with the vast majority identifying the animal as “a large bobcat because of the short tail.”
Cougars have tails that are 2 to 3 feet long which would have been pretty clear in the photos, he said, adding that an “overwhelming majority also say there are cougars in the area.”
Among those email responses received by Mr. Bassin and forwarded to The Columbia Paper identifying the animal as a bobcat were from:
*Paul Ricciardi: “I saw a similar short tailed creature in front of the [Ancram] Opera House this past fall. I was sure it was a bobcat.”
*Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Region 4 Wildlife Manager Michael Clark: “Bobcat for sure.”
*Ralph C., who attached his own bobcat photo: “This guy has been by me on Poole Hill off 82 a number of times, as a matter of fact this past Saturday night he was out there screaming for a few minutes.”
*Marshall Miles: “I put this on my Facebook page had about 65 responses 60 said bobcat five said cougar….all agree cougars are in the area!”
*Joanne Dwy: “Large Bobcat – no tail.”
Of another opinion was:
*Katherine Mosby, who wrote: “Looks like a cougar to me. Bobcats are much lower to the ground, distinctly smaller, have point ears that change the head shape considerably…just my opinion.”
Responses from people who reported seeing a cougar in the area at sometime in the past included:
*Bill Broe: “Art, I saw a cougar as did my next door neighbor about 3 or 4 years ago. My neighbor watched it walk across Joel Osofskys field. It just sauntered across so he had time to really study it. Nancy and I saw one about 3 months after my neighbor saw it. When we saw it was in field next to Stimmels. Whether it was coincidence or not I can’t say but around the same time we saw it Stimmels let their dog out and never saw their dog again. How I know about the dog is they called asking if we saw it and told us about the time frame. So whether they [cougars] live here I can’t say but they do pass through.”
*luckybench: “We have seen the cougar. No doubt about it. Thing was huge with a long tail.
*Jan Hanvik: “To add to the overwhelming majority, in May 2014 or 2015, walking down Pat’s Road towards Poole, I saw a cougar I guesstimated to be about a 2-year-old, ran across the road about 50 yards in front of me, about 10:30 a.m., long tail stretched out behind it, solid tawny color. My friend Sheila Gowen on Hall Hill last summer saw one at dusk emerge from the cattails along her property at dusk, walk across her yard, reappear from the cattails chasing a rabbit that she saw it catch. Great to have these mysteries! We don’t want everything to be cut and dried!”
*Yukiko Naoi: “I just wanted to let you know that a friend of mine and myself saw one [a cougar] in early March this year as well. We did not now know (at least I did not know) what a cougar looked like and thought … it must be a bobcat but it really did look like a female lion which was the closest thing that my friend and I could think of and agreed upon. We were on 82 heading towards Wassaic.”
Skeptical of cougar sightings was Stephen Andors, who wrote: “Show me one photo of these alleged cougars! Or one sign of their presence.”
Woody Baxt didn’t offer any opinion on the animal but appreciated the exchange: “This is fabulous. Lovely the give-and-take. What about setting up a town ‘pool.’ Everybody kicks in five bucks and gives it a year for someone to bring in a definitive picture of a ‘cougar.’ Just don’t ask me to set it up. Great fun.”
DEC Public Information Officer Rick Georgeson weighed in on the Ammendolea photos at The Columbia Paper’s request: “Our Wildlife staff have seen this photo as well and it’s clearly a bobcat, no question.
There currently is no evidence of any mountain lions living in New York State. As a science-based agency, we must rely on evidence to make our determinations about wildlife existing in the state. While it certainly is not impossible that mountain lions may have migrated to the state, there just simply is not any evidence to support this claim.”
Mr. Georgeson said, “DEC biologists are willing to investigate credible claims accompanied by some form of evidence such as footprints, scat or photographs.”
DEC Wildlife Manager Clark investigated a recent sighting on a trail cam photo in Poestenkill, Rensselaer County. “We brought our cardboard cutout of a life size cougar and we also examined other photos on the trail cam and came up with a composite photo showing the cat next to a truck for scale. That cat was almost certainly a house cat,” Mr. Georgeson concluded.
To contact Diane Valden email
Bobcat versus cougar
According to the DEC website (http://www.dec.ny.gov/):
Bobcat are about twice the size of a domestic cat and usually smaller than the Canada lynx. Their fur is dense, short and soft and is generally shorter and more reddish in the summer and longer and more gray in the winter. Spotting occurs in some bobcats and is faded in others. The face has notable long hairs along the cheeks and black tufts at the tops of each ear.
Males are, on average, one-third larger than females. Both sexes can be greater than 30 pounds; however, averages for males and females are 21 and 14 pounds, respectively. Body length for males is 34 inches and 30 inches for females. Tail length is usually between 5 and 6 inches for both sexes.
Sometimes sightings of bobcat are confused with Canada lynx. Bobcat can be easily distinguished from lynx by the absence of the huge, seemingly oversized paws and a black-tipped tail that are characteristic of the lynx. Bobcats have paws that are proportional to their body size, and their tail is black spotted. Lynx tracks are roughly twice the size of that of a bobcat. DEC attempted a lynx restoration program in the Adirondacks in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the animals released there dispersed far and wide and a resident breeding population was never established. Currently, the lynx is considered extirpated in New York because there is no evidence of any remnant population of resident animals.
Eastern Cougar, considered extirpated in New York with a Federal Status of extinct, is known by many common names, including puma, mountain lion, catamount and panther. Next to the jaguar, it is the largest North American cat. Weights range from 80-225 pounds (36-103 kg), averaging 140 (64 kg).
Length varies from 5-9 feet (150-275 cm); this measurement includes the 26-32 inch (66-82 cm) tail. Males are larger than females. Cougars have long, slender bodies and small, broad, round heads. Ears are short, erect and rounded. The short fur is usually tawny (brownish red-orange to light brown), more tan in the summer months and grayer during the winter. The muzzle, chin and underparts are a creamy white. Black coloring appears on the tip of the tail, behind the ears, and at the base of the whiskers on the sides of the muzzle. Immature cougars are paler, with obvious dark spots on their flanks.