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August 26. 2012 12:22AM

Cougar country? One photo is not proof

Cougars are the UFOs of New Hampshire — Unidentified Feline Objects. Officially cougars do not exist in the state. But hunters, hikers, farmers and loggers have reported sightings for decades. None has ever had a credible-looking photo. Until last week.

On Wednesday we published a column by John Harrigan about the latest reported sighting — and the photo that purportedly verifies it. The picture shows what appears to be a large cougar walking on a dead tree in the woods. The person who sent the photo said it was taken in Alstead. Using film, not a digital camera, he said he snapped the pic on the last frame on his roll and the cougar ran off before he could reload.

If the photo is authentic, it would be huge news. But there are questions. The story is that there is only one photo because the photographer ran out of film. But who besides professional studio photographers shoots film anymore? Is it a live cougar or a stuffed one placed on the tree? Why does the person who sent Harrigan the photo insist on remaining anonymous? He said it was because of past run-ins with Fish and Game. But wouldn’t the chance to prove the existence of cougars in New Hampshire once and for all trump those hard feelings? And if the photo was shot in May, which is the story, why wait until now to reveal it?

The photographer should come forward and take Fish and Game to the spot of the reported sighting. An animal that big would leave evidence of its existence. Fish and Game ought to investigate, but any investigation that does not have the assistance of the person who made the initial claim would start with a handicap. True believers who hope for vindication at last would want to do anything they could to prove their claims, wouldn’t they?


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