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MA: State: West Bridgewater ‘mountain lion’ likely a

By Shannon Gallagher
The Enterprise

WEST BRIDGEWATER – The mystery of the mountain lion in West
Bridgewater has been solved: It wasn’t one.

At least, that’s what Marion E. Larson, Chief of Information & Education at the
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife said.

Residents reacted with awe and uneasiness last week when a local resident and
big game enthusiast announced possible mountain lion sightings on the West
Bridgewater community Facebook group.

Keith Porges posted photos of the unusually large paw prints that he had spotted
while hunting near Pleasant Street in West Bridgewater on Monday. The paw
print, pictured alongside Porges’ rifle for size comparison, is nearly four inches
in length.

“At first, I thought it was a mountain lion.” Porges said. “I was so excited
because, at where it is, it’s really swampy and there’s a lot of trees for a cat to
climb and watch their prey. It made sense.”

Some agreed.

East Bridgewater resident Randy Julius, a longtime hunter and wildlife writer for
The Enterprise, said the prints that Porges found could very well be from a local
mountain lion.

“They’re consistent with the shape of a mountain lion’s tracks: the 4 ½ inch
wide by 4 size. Mountain lions have four toes, no claws and are shaped like that
in the back.”

Others chimed in on Facebook with their own speculations as to what kind of
animal could have left the animal tracks in local forested areas.

Some thought it was a bobcat, some a coy wolf, and others a mountain lion.

Then Jim Smith, a resident of South Plymouth, came forward with his own
revelation of possible paw prints spottings in Middleboro in late September.

These prints, too, could be the real deal, Julius said.

“I spend a lot of time in the woods tracking that sort of thing and they looked
just like they would,” Julius said.

Porges was beginning to grow skeptical, though.

Upon further examination, Porges concluded that the tracks he found could not
have come from a mountain lion or any other member of the feline family.

That’s because cat tracks typically don’t have visible claw marks, Porges said.
Cats retract their claws while walking.

“They’ll have four toes, and pads but no nail markers,” Porges said.

So Porges decided that the tracks most likely belong to a large coy wolf, a hybrid
descended from coyotes and wolves.

And if there’s anyone in West Bridgewater with the skills to identify large cat
tracks, it’s probably Porges.

Porges grew up surrounded by leopards and lions. His father owned and bred
large cats at their home in Stoughton while Keith was growing up. Porges said
he helped to raise five bobcats, two snow leopards and two mountain lions.

Finally, the experts at the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife chimed
in with their findings.

In an email to The Enterprise on Friday, Division of Fisheries & Wildlife’s
Larson confirmed Porges’s suspicions.

“MassWildlife biologists have looked at the tracks and concluded these are dog
tracks,” Larson wrote. “The heel on the single track is not the right shape or size
for a cat track as well as the pattern of the toes are of a dog. The image with the
firearm doesn’t show good detail of the tracks themselves, but the pattern of the
prints also are the gait of a dog.”

There have been only two confirmed mountain lion sightings in Massachussetts
since 1997, according to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s website, and this
was not one of them.