Many Berkshires residents, however, remain determined to believe mountain lions live here.
Pictures from a co-worker’s neighbor or a friend’s cousin dart around the web in emails. One such picture, supposedly taken in Richmond and forwarded to The Eagle, turned out to be from Indiana, taken by an automatic game camera set up by the state wildlife agency.
Some of the hoaxes end up in French’s in-box at MassWildlife.
The worst was a photo of a ‘‘badly mounted,’’ stuffed mountain lion placed in the woods. The most recent he remembers came from Peru, forwarded by someone who fell for a trick perpetrated by a cousin.
‘‘He sent us real photographs of the animal looking in a porch window,’’ French said. ‘‘And they’re real. It’s a great mountain lion shot. And yeah, they were first printed in a paper in Boulder, (Colo.)
The problem was the person who sent them believed with his heart and soul that they were in the Berkshires because his cousin swore he took them himself.
‘‘When I showed him the pictures from Boulder, he was embarrassed, and his cousin thought it was a big joke.’’
Tougias said he appreciates the lore and the desire to believe the cats are making a comeback from extinction. He calls the prevalence of sightings ‘‘an interesting phenomenon.’’
‘‘I think people want to believe that the lands they hunt and fish and hike can hold some mystery,’’ he said, ‘‘so they want to believe that any animal of unknown origin that may resemble a cougar may in fact be a cougar.’’