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Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel 06/28/2009

WINSLOW -- A state wildlife biologist has investigated the reported sighting of a mountain lion in Winslow.

The biologist, Kendall Marden, didn't find any evidence such as hair or feces to scientifically confirm the presence of the animal.

But something else was discovered: what appears to be a large paw print in sand and dirt by the side of the road. It appears to measure 6 to 9 inches long and 5 inches wide.

For Lin Stout, who reported the mountain-lion sighting, there remains no doubt in her mind about what she saw, despite the lack of physical evidence.

"I'm convinced 100 percent," Stout said. "I would bet everything on it. I saw a mountain lion."

State wildlife officials say there is no wild mountain-lion population in Maine and reports of the animals, when they're legitimate, are of captive mountain lions that have been illegally released. Many people mistake other wild animals for mountain lions, state officials say.

There have been only two scientifically confirmed cases of mountain lions in Maine: The first was in 1938 near the Maine-Quebec border and the second was in 1995 in Cape Elizabeth.

Stout says she and her two sons encountered the mountain lion Monday afternoon in their backyard off South Ridge Drive. First, Stout said, they saw a long tail bobbing through ferns and brush and then the animal walked out in full view.

Stout said the mountain lion was uninterested in them and was instead focused on watching a domestic cat that was in a nearby marsh area. The mountain lion, Stout said, silently leaped back into the woods after about 30 seconds.

Wally Jakubas, mammal-group leader for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the agency's point person on mountain lions, said Stout's description of the animal seemed to fit. Jakubas also said there had been another possible mountain-lion report last week in the north Augusta area, in which a feces sample (also known as scat) was recovered and is being analyzed.

Jakubas said Thursday that the scat had been found in the middle of a driveway and no tracks were found around it.

"I and a couple other biologists are going to take a closer look at it," he said.

Late Tuesday, Marden inspected the scene in Winslow, Stout said. He found indentations that would indicate the spot where the animal had been laying, but no genetic evidence was recovered, Stout said.

Stout said Marden requested that she look up photos of fisher cats, which are commonly mistaken for mountain lions. Stout said she spent hours researching online and she and her sons looked at many pictures of fisher cats.

"It was not a fisher cat," Stout said.

On Wednesday morning, the day the Morning Sentinel published a story about Stout's sighting, Rob Winter said he and other co-workers, jokingly, thought they would look around the South Ridge Drive area. Winter, employed by Dunn Builders of Vassalboro, has been working at a house-construction site just down the road from Stout's property.

"It's definitely a large, cat-like print," Winter said. "We have a couple of large dogs here on site and, compared with their prints, it's colossal."

Shown an image of the print, Jakubas said, "I cannot say what made it."

"It looks like at least two tracks on top of one another -- 9 inches of disturbed soil," Jakubas said. "I cannot distinguish toe pads or even a general shape from the picture."

Scott Monroe -- 861-9253

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