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Officials can't decide whether there's a mountain lion in Winchester

Posted by Doug Saffir  March 21, 2014 05:37 PM

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An ongoing dispute between Winchester police and wildlife officials has resulted in nothing but confusion for Winchester residents who are concerned a wild mountain lion might be roaming their town.

In two separate incidents, people have reported spotting an animal described as a large cat. But in neither instance has the animal been confirmed as a mountain lion.

According to CBS Boston, Winchester police sent footprints collected from each incident to a wildlife expert. A statement on the Winchester police website said the expert determined that the prints belong to a mountain lion.

But that is where things start to get cloudy. Multiple reports have said that Massachusetts wildlife officials were quick to refute the claims made by Winchester police.

A report from WCVB said a mountain lion sighting hasn't been confirmed in the state in over 150 years and that wildlife officials believe the prints belong to a dog. More from their report:

"We stand by our contention that this is absolutely not a mountain lion. We have sent the photos to several out-of-state experts, including a western mountain lion biologist, and all the feedback we have received is supportive of our original interpretation that these tracks were made by a coyote or dog," state wildlife officials said in a statement to NewsCenter 5.

The last confirmed mountain lion sighting in Massachusetts was in 1858, in the western part of the state. Numerous sightings have been reported since then, but none have been confirmed.

So with no clarity whatsoever on the issue, Winchester residents are left to wonder whether the mountain lion is real. Unfortunately, the issue is raising lots of other important questions like: "Is it safe to go outside?" and "Should I start carrying a weapon?"

Of course, just because officials can't make up their minds, that doesn't mean people can't decide for themselves using evidence beyond the foot prints.

For example, people may want to consider the fact that the Winchester mountain lion has created a Twitter account. Demonstrating surprisingly good typing skills for an animal without thumbs, the alleged mountain lion has insisted that it is "wicked real" and is cracking jokes about all the commotion surrounding its sudden appearance.

You might be skeptical, but those tweets make for some pretty compelling evidence.

So take caution everybody: there's a dangerous mountain lion out there and It's the perfect combination of speed, size, and social media savvy. If it doesn't get you with its claws, it will get you with its wit.

Reach me at douglas.saffir@globe.com. Follow me @dougsaffir

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