This trail camera photo seems to show some sort of cat, but what appears to be a long tail, like a mountain lion would have, may be a branch. Credit: Courtesy of Nolan Raymond

A couple weeks back, I shared the cool trail cam photo sent in by Bangor Daily News reader Nolan Raymond, whose Bucksport camera captured a large cat. If you used your imagination, you could even say you saw a long tail, like the kind a mountain lion would have.

Of course, there’s really no proof of mountain lions here in Maine, even though dozens of people have stepped forward to tell their stories over the years. But still, many of us like to look at these photos, trying to figure out exactly what we’re seeing.

As I’ve learned over the years, not everyone loves a good Maine mountain lion mystery. In fact, there are plenty of people who get downright angry when we bring the topic up again.

They say mean things about the Bangor Daily News. They say mean things about me. And they say (essentially) that anybody who thinks there are mountain lions walking around in Maine is misguided at best. Experts say that misidentifying another animal — a bear, bobcat, or housecat — as a mountain lion is pretty common.

The top question among that group, many of whom spend an awful lot of time leading others around in the woods: Why do you keep writing these stories?

The answer, in six quick digits: I have 152,388 reasons why. That’s how many people have read the story online thus far. In the news organization biz, that’s not a number to be scoffed at. And in my book, it proves an important point: Whether readers have a mountain lion story of their own — many think they do, by the way — they love looking at photos that might show that the big cats, also known as cougars, catamounts and pumas, walk among us.

Some more telling numbers: In an accompanying poll of readers, 89 percent said they were certain that mountain lions are already here in Maine. Another 8.6 percent said they don’t think the cats are here yet, but they might get here some day. And more than 6,000 people took the time to participate in the unscientific poll.

In that most recent story, I asked readers to tell me what they saw in Raymond’s photo. Here’s some of what they had to say, edited for clarity and style:

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From Brett Thompson, via comments on the story: I don’t think the long tail is a branch, but a true tail, not consistent with a bobcat or lynx. The black rings on the tail and legs, as well as the smaller size might indicate one of two things: a young mountain lion which has yet to lose all of its camouflage; or a new mountain lion hybrid. As with lions and tigers, whose habitats suddenly blended after years of land separation, they breed together, giving us the liger and tigon.

I live in Vermont and have seen, in broad daylight, a mountain lion (catamount, cougar, puma). The wildlife officials say there are none in Vermont. Yet there are more and more sightings and collaborating photos and videos. I guess denial works for some.

From Radam96, via comments: Bobcat. Also it seems a higher percentage of people in Maine have seen cougar than those in states with thousands of them, imagine that. People love a story.

From DLN, via comments: Most definitely a bobcat! [Lions] might pass through but in my 40 years in western Maine I’ve never seen one or any sign for that matter (tracks, kills, or scat) we don’t have enough food for a population of them one lion needs a big kill every three to five days.

From Skye_Ocean, via comments: FIrst impression bobcat. Tried to see “mountain lion” and agree that what appears to be a long tail is most likely the lower half of the tree leaning beyond the cat. I think a mountain lion tail would be trailing straight off the spine. I suppose if it was lashing the tail it would account for that position, but the feline is boxy-shaped, has the [stripe on] the front leg and the dark on the end of the tail all attributed to bobcat.

From Tim_Love, via comments: Question. What’s the reason they wouldn’t be? “Boozoowis,” as we call them, have been seen along the shore line in the evening on large tribally owned islands in the Penobscot River as far back as I can remember.

From hmmsmart, via comments: If you think there are no mountain lions here then there are no bears either. Holy moly get with it.

From Beau Barker via email: In regards to the trail cam image in the above article, it appears to be a juvenile female (1.5- to 3-year-old) cougar — aka mountain lion.

I reside in rural Oregon where these big cats are common. With one exception, every cougar I’ve seen has been on or near established deer trails. This is the right time of year for rutting season and fawns from the last rut would be around 5-6 months old…

As for the debate on their presence (or lack thereof) in Maine, all I can say is that the range of this species can be hundreds of miles.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...