Snapshots in Time – March 11, 1896 compiled by Bill Pierce

Cougars, like the wolf, were sadly demonized in North America in the 19th century, leading to their extinction in places like Maine.

The following is taken from the first column of page 1 of the March 11, 1896 edition of the RANGELEY LAKES newspaper. The position taken by history in this edition clearly demonstrates that, like today, anything sensational makes headlines and therefore sells more newspapers. After a great scarcity due to exploitation and after 20 years of scarcity… deer, moose and caribou were reappearing in the Big Woods of Maine. With that, from the comments of the actively quoted wise old woodcutter, the wolves and the panther followed. Puma concolor, also known as mountain lion, cougar, cougar, panther, painter, mountain ghost, and catamount is called an “Indian devil” which I have seen used in other mid-19th century publications in Maine. Barely flattering to Native Americans and politically incorrect and rightly so by the standards of our time, so an expansive apology. Anyway, the article below is printed as it was in 1896. I found it interesting, and it shares the location and name of the hunter of the last known mountain lion captured in Maine, which I had never seen it referenced before.

Have a good mud season and be sure to get out there and dig your way in to create your own outdoor story!


Panthers and wolves are said to be returning to Maine.

After a long period in which deer seemed almost entirely extinct from Maine’s woodlands, wise game laws carefully enforced over the past two decades have resulted in the wilderness being repopulated with antlered game. Once again, moose, deer and caribou roam the forest in numbers commensurate with those it housed in the years before pot hunting (commercial hunting) became a source of profit and before the sportsman of the town becomes an annual feature of the Pine Tree. State. Despite this, year after year, Maine’s hunter visitor list and the number of animals killed have shown a steady and considerable increase. Woodland creatures on foot in the woods, as far as they can be observed, have increased rather than decreased in number, says the New York Herald. But while the unnecessary killing of game by unsportsmanlike gunners is fairly well controlled by an effective guarding system, there have been signs and rumors of the appearance in these chosen hunting grounds for the past year or two. of some old enemies of the big game, which has old loggers shaking their heads and prophesying new hardships in keeping Maine’s woods populated with deer and moose. Wolves have been seen and heard, not only near the Canadian border to the northwest, but as far south and east as in Katahdin Iron Works country, near the geographic center of the state.

In the same region, the cry of the Indian devil or panther was recently heard for the first time in many years, and the deep imprint of its huge cat paws was discovered in the snow along the deer trails . The abundance of deer in Maine comes entirely from the natural increase of those originally in the state at the time the gambling laws were enacted, but largely also from the migrations of these animals from the Canada, and there are indications that the wolf and Indian devil is following them across the border. What this means, some of the old hunters and woodcutters with fond memories of events in the first half of the century, have very definite impressions. “It was fifty-five years ago, in the winter of ’40 and ’41, that there were more deer in Maine than I’ve ever seen them before or since,” a man said the other day. veteran lumberjack who “drove” the West. Branch of the Penobscot River many seasons and well versed in Maine logging traditions. “The previous summer they had eaten every stalk of my brother’s field of oats down to the ground, within sight of the house, and there was no way they could be kept out of it unless someone one has stood guard day and night. I killed twenty-seven deer that winter without going far to find them, and I could have had twice as many if I had wanted them. I killed five in the mile and a half between my house and the village of Foxcroft. The following winter the wolves came from the north, and in one season cleared the country of deer in their ‘yards’, herded in deep snow. The stags had no chance of escaping and the wolves roamed the land destroying them at will. They seemed to kill for killing’s sake, and wherever they found a “yard” they didn’t leave a deer alive. They would suck the blood from the deer they were killing, maybe eat some of its flesh, then fetch another yard. They did their job so thoroughly in one winter, that, working as I did in the woods every season, I did not even see a deer for the next eleven years. When the snow disappeared the following spring, the few deer that had escaped the general culling remained near the man’s dwellings, as if to protect themselves against a worse enemy. Some of them entered the courtyards of farmers and even the streets of cities. Others went south, wolves following towards the coast. There, the snow being lighter than in the northern woods, the deer the following winter had a better chance of surviving. Some of them crossed the Mount Desert, and this island was one of the places where you could find deer until people from the cities started going there so much. Along the coast the people, mostly sailors and fishermen, did not hunt deer much, but their homes and settlements served to keep the wolves from getting too close, and so some of the deer survived. “After the deer left, the wolves turned their attention to the caribou, but these animals, being migratory and great runners, soon left the country and moved to new feeding grounds in New Brunswick. Moose, being a combative and powerful animal, could do better against beasts of prey than deer or caribou, and although there is no doubt that many of them were killed by wolves this winter- there they were more alive at the end of winter than the deer. But for a long time, moose were extremely rare in Maine.

“The Indian devil existed at that time, but the mischief he does to deer is not worth mentioning in comparison with that which wolves do. A single deer sometimes satisfies him, and for this he often has to wait a long time, trying to fly over the unsuspecting animal or lying on a branch overhanging a track, ready to drop on the back of a deer as it passes. under the tree. On the other hand, he is a timid brute, as far as man is concerned, and even when prowling he keeps well out of the clearings; so the deer has a chance to wander away from its neighborhood if it feels like traveling. “It was after the deer were killed and the caribou hunted that backwoods farmers had the most reason to remember the visitation of Canada’s wild beasts. In the absence of their natural prey, the hungry creatures came to pastures and farmyards, and there has never been another time in Maine’s history when so many colts, calves, sheep and pigs were killed by wild animals. This led to the offering of bounties for the scalps of wolves and panthers, and many farmers made more than good of their losses by the wild beasts he shot, trapped, or poisoned. Many were killed, others I suspect returned to Canada or followed the caribou over the New Brunswick border. In any case, they have mostly disappeared, although some wolves were still found in the Maine woods well into the Civil War era. The last panther killed in Maine was shot thirty years ago near Eagle Lake, Piscataquis County, by a hunter named Noyes. Those people who think that today’s fine hunting in Maine, and it’s first class and error free, will continue, are nothing more than an obstacle that comes from human poachers, are likely to have a revival before the year 1900. . There is no particular trouble to be feared from the Indian devil. He kills deer, of course, but he doesn’t exterminate them or drive them out of the country. With wolves, it’s something else. They are fierce and cunning and always on the trail of deer and caribou. When they come — and they will surely come sooner or later — they will be numerous and they will wreak sad havoc among the wood game. There are plenty of them beyond the Canadian border and some already on this side of the border, and in a winter of deep snow they would drastically reduce the number of deer, moose and caribou in our forests. I hope it turns out better than I prophesied. But wait and see!

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