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Cat Track Clarification

e-tape and tracks 105I knew this post might stir up some controversy, but it far exceeded my expectations! I did take photos of the tracks with a tape measure, but they weren’t as clear as the one I chose to use for the post. Pictured here is the clearest measured track photo. With a bit of work, using the tape as a reference, one can see that the individual tracks measure roughly 2 ¼ “ wide by 2 ¼” long. ADULT cougar tracks = 2 ¾” – 3 7/8” L x 2 7/8” – 4 7/8” W. Remember that the person who saw this cat was definite about it being a JUVENILE cougar, judging from its size. Bobcat tracks = 1 5/8” – 2 ½” L x 1 3/8” – 2 5/8” W. House cat tracks (unlike the bobcat, house cats have a long tail, so might be more likely to be mistaken for a cougar?) = 1” – 1 5/8” L x 7/8” – 1 ¾ “W. These measurements rule out a house cat. They are within the range of a juvenile cougar or adult bobcat track, but only the cougar has a long tail (observed by eye witness). In addition, the stride (defined here as a measurement taken from the heel of one footprint to the heel of the same foot in the next footprint) of this cat was roughly 32″. An adult cougar’s stride is 32″ – 44″. A bobcat’s stride is 22″ – 26″. Skeptics are welcome to believe it was a bobcat. I trust my friend’s eyesight and the tape measure enough to believe it was a cougar. Many thanks for your engagement and comments!

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36 responses

  1. Kate Reeves

    Hi Mary. If you go to our web site you will see Cat tracks I photographed in upper New Hampshire 4 years ago ish. They definitely are here. Love your blog. kate reeves THANK YOU!

    > >

    January 15, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    • Fantastic photos, Kate! I have actually seen catamount tracks in the mud in Barnard, perhaps 8 or 10 years ago, and know that a friend of a friend actually saw the animal. Your tracks are unmistakeable! Wonderful service you provide!

      January 15, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    • Shelly Todd

      Hi Kate! Yes, I agree with you all! About 10 years ago my husband and I were kayaking the “back side” of 2nd CT Lake in Pittsburg, NH at sunset. We both saw a big cat with a long tail. We had been guides for over 20 years at that point and knew what bobcats looked like and this cat was definitely different! I reported to the local Fish and Game officer at the time and was told, “NO WAY”. Interestingly, later at the local bar, he told me unofficially that if they report a sighting it would shut down the snowmobile trails because they would have to allow for territory for the cat. Hmmmm….

      January 15, 2016 at 7:18 pm

  2. Problem is the wildlife agency folks won’t trust any eye witness. Those tracks COULD be a bobcat, but if so, a good sized male! Thanks for the reply!

    January 15, 2016 at 5:40 pm

  3. How about lynx sizes? Are they between cougar and bobcat? I’m not disputing the tail on your friend’s cat, but am wondering because of reports of cougar at our place this year. There are also confirmed lynx here.

    January 15, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    • sorry, never mind. I have your previous post comparing lion/lynx/bobcat. Thank you! Just what we need!

      January 15, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    • janetpesaturo

      No, lynx have much bigger feet. It’s an adaptation that allows them to walk over deep soft snow, with minimal sinking.

      January 15, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    • Lynx would fit this track and stride size. But have to weigh the witness. There have been confirmations right over the border in Canada, (many of them). Its not at all surprising that some are in New England. They have been confirmed before, more than the agencies admit.

      January 15, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      • We’re awful close to Canada (20 miles).
        What about this popular lore here in the Kingdom: if Vermont Fish and Game have a report of a cougar, they have to “quarantine” the reported site and land adjacent for 10 sq miles, and then search it closely for sign. They hate that, so they discourage reports and even tell us there are none. It’s a popular story here.

        January 15, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      • I had heard something similar, Andree, and I even was bold enough to confront the F&G person in charge of cougar sightings about it, and he assured me that he was more than eager to confirm cougar sightings in Vermont, but that scat or a photo or body was necessary in order to do so…

        January 15, 2016 at 6:09 pm

  4. They are the size of Lynx, but the long tail description doesn’t match a lynx. The wildlife agencies dismiss witnesses as unreliable. We all know many we would trust though!

    January 15, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    • Even I am hesitant to say there are Lynx where these were found…

      January 15, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      • Right Mary. A lynx would be more surprising than a cougar. Don’t forget though that group that was confirmed in Craftsbury back in the 1990’s.

        January 15, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    • By the way, I believe I see tail drag marks in that original photo. That pretty much cinches the track as cougar if so.

      January 15, 2016 at 5:54 pm

  5. janetpesaturo

    Well, it was a bit provocative to post the first photo that had nothing for scale, no? Since so many claims of cougar sightings turn out to be bobcats, it’s hard to automatically accept this as cougar on someone’s word.

    January 15, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    • You’re right, Janet, but the tracks were so much clearer I decided to go with that…but probably should have gone with the tape measure first, as you say!

      January 15, 2016 at 6:12 pm

  6. For what it is worth I have been convinced of this for many years. But somehow they avoid final confirmation… R

    January 15, 2016 at 6:10 pm

  7. I once saw skeptics claim a catamount in a photo was in fact a bobcat, even though it clearly had a long, long tail. Sometimes skepticism can be taken too far . . .

    January 15, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    • Thanks, Kellyann…sort of my sentiments, too!

      January 15, 2016 at 6:59 pm

  8. Shelly Todd

    I’m with you, Mary! About 10 years ago now my husband and I were kayaking on the far side of 2nd CT Lake in Pittsburg in the early evening and swear we saw an adult mountain lion peering from the woodland’s edge at us. We had a good enough view to see the long tail. We also are both guides with a lot of wilderness experience and know what a bobcat looks like having seen several over the years, but this cat was different! I reported the sighting to the local Fish and Game officer at the time and he said, “No Way!” (later in the local tavern he told me, off the record, that if they admitted there were big cats in the area it would destroy the snowmobiling trail system because they would have to close off large tracts for territory for the cats). So, who knows?????

    January 15, 2016 at 7:06 pm

  9. Hi Mary, Someone forwarded your discussion and asked me to comment. Hope its okay! As an active mountain lion biologist I can share that cougar kitten tracks outgrow bobcat tracks by 4 months of age–but their little short legs are obvious in the way they move and they wouldn’t be out on their own at that time unless their mother was killed. The tracks in your first post are bobcat–mt lion kitten tracks are different proportions–pudgier for lack of a better descriptor. And the pic used here is in an unusual gait and I think will cause confusion if you try to match it to walking measurements of bobcats or cougars. Those are my thoughts. Keep searching! Warm regards. And for those interested in mountain lions:

    January 15, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    • I’m so grateful to have your input, Mark! Much appreciated, and I particularly was interested to learn about the size of a young cougar’s tracks. Many, many thanks. Mary

      January 15, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    • Thanks Mark, if anyone would know cougar kitten tracks it would be you 🙂

      January 15, 2016 at 10:31 pm

  10. — your photos are definite lynx. Beautiful. And folks, mt lions rarely leave a tail drag except in deep snow or when they sit down.

    January 15, 2016 at 7:18 pm

  11. “Nice bobcat tracks! Cougar kitten feet are different proportions–toe to pad to space between…” so says Mark Elbroch. I would be inclined to agree.

    January 15, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    • Mark did comment, and does identify them as bobcat tracks, and his book is my bible, but I still believe my friend’s eyes, I’m afraid. Just wish I’d seen it myself!

      January 16, 2016 at 8:56 am

  12. Renee Bachman

    Where did she see it? I was sure I saw a mountain lion 2 weeks ago walking along my neighbors tree line. I knew it was a huge cat so I thought it was a very large bobcat but then I saw the tail! There were no tracks because we had ice only up here in Huntington. No one wants to believe me but I believe my eyes!

    January 16, 2016 at 6:13 am

    • Not near Huntington, but a distance that could have been covered in two weeks, Renee. There are so many skeptics, and I know many reports have proven to be inaccurate, but I’m a believer.

      January 16, 2016 at 8:54 am

      • Is this Huntington MA? If so we have had some interesting sightings in the last few years, even going back to the 1940s and 1950s.

        January 16, 2016 at 9:54 am

  13. kdski

    numerous sightings in Sutton , NH on and off for 10+ years and it’s NOT a big bobcat but there is no way F&G will confirm unless they get the dna and they also say that if there is one it has been introduced . They dont want to deal with the endangered species situation – would shut down all kinds of activities and cause more problems for them.

    January 16, 2016 at 10:34 am

  14. Kit

    Speaking of cougars… on Jan 1, 2016 while heading north on I-91 by exit 14 early in the AM a long-time friend of ours with a lifetime of wildlife/outdoor experience is certain he saw an adult cougar crossing the interstate heading over the median and then out of sight. There is no doubt in his mind it was an adult cougar.

    January 19, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    • No doubt in my mind that your friend saw what he thought he saw!

      January 20, 2016 at 8:25 am

    • There have been a number of sightings that are not easily contested over the years. An experienced bobcat tracker from Westfield documented his encounters with the “big cats” while out hunting bobcats in 1948 to 1956. He ran across a few of them and even had his dogs chase one for a number of miles once. The areas he describes that he tracked the big cats in are the same areas we receive reports of encounters today. He wrote a small book about the encounters called “the big cats of western Massachusetts”. One of the local historical societies has a copy of it. Back in the 1980s and 1990s there were tracks that were positively identified in Western Massachusetts, and an attack on some large collies where both were attacked, and one carried off. The local veterinarian documented the bite marks on the surviving collie and clearly stated they were consistent with a cougar. Some of these are lost of course with time, but the local people all know about them. They are highly dismissive of being told by wildlife agencies that “there are none”.

      January 20, 2016 at 10:06 am

      • Renee Bachman

        Thanks! I’ll keep my eyes out for it!

        Sent from my iPhone


        January 20, 2016 at 11:18 pm

  15. There have been many mountain lion sightings in the West Haven, Benson, Orwell area. Pond Woods Wildlife Management Area in Benson is a good crossing spot for wildlife since it is heavily wooded on both sides of 22A. It is this location that two friends have seen what they say was a mountain lion crossing the road.

    January 20, 2016 at 8:37 am

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