The cops in Acton, Mass are pretty sure they have a cougar in town.
Experts say mountain lions no longer roam the area, but this sighting on Mohawk Street is different -- two police officers saw the cat, too.
"When they got out the cruiser and went to the back, they reported seeing a large animal walk by them. They describe it as a 5- to 6-foot cat, very low to the ground, very muscular with a long tail," said Acton police Lt. Don Palma.
Apparently mountains lions haven't roamed the area for quite some time, but they do now. There's no mistaking a housecat for a mountain lion, and 5 or 6 feet of very muscular cat is a good description of a mountain lion, or cougar, as they are also called.
Check out the map, and see how close Acton (at the star) is to Boston. It might surprise someone from another part of the country to see just how wooded some of the more urban areas are in New England, where farms have been abandoned and allowed to revert back to climax forest. When I was stationed at Fort Devens, about 15 miles west of Acton, I jogged all over that post. It was just after the Army had turned the post back over to the Commonwealth, all but a few of us soldiers were gone, and the place was completely empty. The post abuts a national wildlife refuge; hawks, deer, eagles, and hundreds of other animals call it home. It didn't take them much time at all to move onto the abandoned post, even into the abandoned living areas. I routinely spooked deer from yards in the empty housing areas as I ran past.
More than once I thought I heard large cats in the area, and even came upon a deer carcass just off of one of the running trails that went along the banks of the Nashua River which appeared to me to be a hunting kill, and not just a deer that had died from old age. The only thing I could think of that would be able to take down a 150lb white tail deer in that area was a pack of wild dogs (which were common) or a cougar. I preferred to think it was a cougar, if only to keep me from missing home so much.
The cops think this might be an "illegal release", but really, does that even matter? Illegal or not, if you've ever seen the reaction of even the tamest housecat when you roll a ball by them, you can understand the danger of a large cat in an urban setting. The article's sub-title is "Joggers Urged To Use Caution." Yeah, no shit. And bring a gun. Oh wait, this is in Massachusettes, and gun possession there is illegal. Well, if attacked, I guess joggers can always call a cop.
The Acton police may want to talk to the cops who set up shop there on Fort Devens. Their building is only about 200 meters from the Nashua River, and maybe a half-mile from the wildlife sanctuary. They might be able to tell if there has been any cougars in the area. A cougar can easily roam the 15 miles from Fort Devens to Acton in a night.
I'm pretty sure there are plenty of big cats near Quabbin Reservoir, which is the large body of water to the west of Acton on the map. If there is a breeding population of cougars there, then they'll start moving out as their need for more land overcomes their natural shyness. Moving into the Oxbow NWR and Fort Devens would be real easy, and quite a good hunting place. And once a few big cats get a hold of how easy it is to catch and eat a small dog tied to dog run in a local urban area, there will be no turning them back.