In Our Bedford Backyards…. An Occasional Series about Nature’s Creatures in Bedford

Part 1:  Predators – Bobcats, Coyotes, Lynx …

Over the past few weeks, social media has carried multiple posts about coyotes, and more recently on January 7, about a possible mountain lion.

A Facebook discussion was begun by Erin Campbell on Tuesday morning. “A large tan cat-like animal with a long tail ran across the road [at Middlesex Community College] …. bigger than our golden retriever, and it really looked like a long muscular cat…. ” wrote Campbell.

Dozens of comments piled up, some wondering if the sighting was a fisher cat (no, they’re small and low to the ground, with black coats), others suggesting that the long tail indicated a mountain lion. Bobcats have short, stubby tails — hence their name. Campbell went on to post, “Pictures look like mountain lion when I tried to find a match but I don’t think we have any here.”

Others chimed in that they had heard of other sightings in Massachusetts, particularly a 2014 TV news report that paw prints found in Winchester were thought to belong to a mountain lion and the Carlisle Mosquito archive notes at least two sightings.

Mountain Lions in Massachusetts?

“There are no mountain lions in Massachusetts,” Bedford’s Animal Control Officer Michael Leskouski said on Wednesday afternoon. “Bobcats, yes, but no mountain lions.” The department’s Twitter feed posted a link to the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife webpage about Bobcats in Massachusetts to calm residents’ anxiety.

Further exploration of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) web site turned up its Mountain Lion page.  It describes very specific criteria for establishing the animal’s presence and goes on to say there have only been two confirmed instances of sightings in Massachusetts.

  • A scat sample near a beaver carcass at the Quabbin Reservoir was confirmed by a pair of independent laboratories in April 1997, and a well-photographed track trail in fresh snow was confirmed in March 2011 near the edge of the Reservoir.
  • The second Quabbin sighting is thought to be related to the Mountain Lion documented in Greenwich, Connecticut on June 5, 2011, and killed by a vehicle six days later on the Merritt Parkway in Milford.

According to the DFW’s Mountain Lion page, The Connecticut Mountain Lion is the best-documented wild Mountain Lion in New England. The young adult male was killed by an SUV on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in Milford, Connecticut on June 11, 2011. Someone photographed the animal at the Brunswick School on Greenwich, Connecticut about 40 miles away on June 5th. The USDA’s Forest Service Wildlife Genetics Laboratory found that the animal came from South Dakota. This mountain lion was documented by DNA samples from Minnesota and Wisconsin between December 2009 and early 2010.  Sighting of this animal also occurred in Michigan and New York.  Over a period of a year and a half, this Mountain Lion left DNA evidence in at least four states.

Dr. Dan Thompson, Large Carnivore Section Supervisor at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has this to say about Mountain Lions, “We have had radio-collared males travel well over 600 miles before we lost contact with them or they were killed.  Females travel shorter distances than males but we’ve had some 400 miles from where they were collared.”    Dr. Thompson continues, “We have had long-range dispersals into areas where cougars haven’t been for hundreds of years, into Nebraska and North Dakota.”

There are paths for mountain lions to make their way back to New England, and certainly, the lion found in Connecticut is a clear case.   What is unique to mountain lions is how elusive they are.  It makes it nearly impossible to say what might be there.  Often DNA analysis is the best way to see what’s moved.  Tracks and scat are also evidence but lions tend to cover their scat.   In Wyoming, residents live with grizzly bears, mountain lions, coyotes… the largest threat to humans in Wyoming is the grizzly bear.  While mountain lions are an apex predator, humans coexist with these animals and people learn to just take precautions.   “Wildlife should NOT be fed,” stressed Dr. Thompson, “even deer.”

To learn about mountain lion biology, physiology and behavior, go to

What to Do if You Encounter a Bobcat

  • Flash a bright light: The brightness of flashlights is measured in lumens, clearly listed on general sales websites like Amazon. Residents walking between dusk and dawn may wish to consider the best possible balance between price and high lumen output.
  • Make some very loud noise: Bang on a metal object, sound an air horn, or scream if you have great lungs. Fill a soda can with loose change and leave it near the door; shake it in the presence of a bobcat.
  • Contact Officer Leskouski: Letting Bedford’s Animal Control Officer know about wildlife in Bedford will allow him to track the frequency of visits, time of day, and the type of creatures around town. An email link on the Bedford Police website will send a message to him. “I love the educational aspect of my job,” he confirmed. In an emergency, dial 911.


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