Sighting called hoax

After investigating a purported mountain lion sighting in the Monadnock Region last month, N.H. Fish and Game officials have determined it was a hoax.

The “sighting” came from a trail camera picture, and was submitted to Fish and Game for verification. Trail cameras are often used by hunters to scout specific sites for the presence of deer or other game.

For the last few weeks, Fish and Game officials worked with the person who believed his trail camera had captured an image of a mountain lion, also known as a cougar, roaming through the woods in Dublin. Officials were attempting to match the vegetation in the photograph to the actual location, but were having a hard time, since the person had difficulty remembering exactly where he’d set up the camera.

But there’s no need to verify the picture now that Fish and Game officials have located the same image on a popular outdoorsman website, said Patrick Tate, a wildlife biologist for the state agency.

“We found the (same) picture on the Internet, and it was posted on Sept. 18,” he said. “It was posted on the Field and Stream site for a photo contest.”

The link doesn’t indicate where the picture was actually taken.

Tate said the person who submitted the photo to Fish and Game believed the image was shot a short time before it was discovered, Oct. 19. But the model of the trail camera didn’t match the one identified in the image, which clearly shows it was produced by a Bushnell device.

“His was not a Bushnell,” Tate said.

The most likely explanation for how this occurred is that a friend played a trick on the person who submitted the picture to Fish and Game, Tate said.

“SD cards (contained in trail cameras) are storage devices,” he said. “You can take it out and save pictures on in, so someone must’ve taken it and put the picture on the card without him knowing, then put it back in the camera.”

Tate does not believe the person who submitted the picture was trying to deceive Fish and Game.

“They are very credible individuals,” he said. “They really thought they’d found the picture on their camera.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year declared mountain lions to be extinct in the east.

In June, a mountain lion was hit and killed by a motorist in Connecticut. Officials later determined the cat had traveled to New England from South Dakota, representing the longest recorded trek by a cougar.

“There could be one (a mountain lion) around here, but we just need to see the evidence,” Tate said.

Kyle Jarvis can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1433, or kjarvis@keenesentinel.com.