A photo of what many believe to be a mountain lion walking through a yard on Josies Ring Road went viral on the Internet with a March 2 posting on Monroe Patch's Facebook page attracting 3,676 views alone. As the debate raged over whether the rare wildcat had actually set foot within the town's borders, Monroe Animal Control Officer Ed Risko did some research of his own.
"I spent an hour or two looking at mountain lion photos, trying to match one with this one," Risko said, while looking at the Facebook photo Thursday morning. "And I found nothing. And it's too early in the year for it to be a cub."
Risko took a full color photo of a mountain lion from a shelf in his Purdy Hill Road office and ran his finger along the back of the cat, noting the long femur. Pointing to the Facebook photo, which is grainy and was taken at night, Risko said, "This femur looks short."
The tail in the clear mountain lion photo also appears to be significantly longer, extending all the way to the ground.
Risko then took an old Connecticut Post article with a photo of a bobcat and held it beside the Facebook photo. The shape of the animals was very similar.
"It's more likely to be a bobcat," Risko said, adding he would like to have more detailed information before making a definitive identification.
Another observation Risko made was that in this densely populated area, a mountain lion could make easy kills of livestock, and no reports of killed livestock showed methods matching that of a mountain lion.
Gathering Fine Details
Risko pulled out a Rare Animal Observation Form with questions people are asked whenever they report a sighting.
Among some of the questions were date, location, address, time, identifying markers, color, estimated weight, shoulder height and whether or not it was an adult.
Track measurements are asked for at the bottom of the form. What was the claw length, pad length and the pad width?
Risko shared a moose photo a Cutlers Farm Road resident took in his yard on May 28,2011 to show how he was able to determine the animal's height by interviewing the homeowner. Some of the details Risko was able to use for his conclusions were the location of the camera and measurements of the area.