Cougar watch: Hunters on Newfoundland's west coast aim to capture suspected cat on camera
Corner Brook company handing out trail cams for cougar spotters
Some avid hunters on the province's west coast are determined to put all rumours to rest and record an image of what they suspect is a cougar.
Possible sightings have popped up on social media this fall with people claiming they saw a large black cat around Deer Lake in October.
- No evidence of panthers in Newfoundland despite reports, say wildlife officials
- 'I saw a mountain lion,' central Newfoundland man claims
Unlike some other reported sightings, Kirk Moore doesn't think he saw a black panther.
"I definitely seen a cougar," he told CBC News.
Moore hunts moose and many other animals in and around Pynn's Brook Road, 15 kilometres from Deer Lake.
Seven years ago when he was hunting for moose, he saw something up on the hill in front of him that looked just like a cougar.
"To me it looked like a cat. It was a long, slinky animal with a long tail, dark in colour, not the proportion a lynx would be. It definitely had a long tail and the features of a cougar," he said.
Moore believes the mountain cat he spotted seven years ago could be part of the same family some people swear they have seen around the island.
Sighting abound, but evidence lacking
It is not believed there are any cougars in Newfoundland and Labrador. There are lynx, which are similar in many ways, but have a short, stubby tail.
Cougars were extirpated in the eastern parts North America in the early 1900s, but sightings have been reported in many places, including mainland Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
We can't wait for someone to figure this out. We can do it ourselves.- Kirk Moore
The term "black panther," meanwhile, refers to leopards and jaguars that have developed the blackened pigment of melanin in their skin.
There are zero confirmed reports of black panthers existing in the Newfoundland and Labrador wild, and no authentic cases of a black cougar in the world.
To Moore, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
"How many times have you seen a lynx, or bear in the woods? Just because you don't see them all the time doesn't mean they are not there."
Moore believes cougars are elusive and rarely seen but is unwavering in his belief the large cats are out there.
Corner Brook company offering cameras
That's why he and his friend, Dustin Parsons, trekked through the bush off Pynn's Brook Road and set up bait and a motion activated trail camera.
"We can't wait for someone to figure this out. We can do it ourselves," Parsons said.
Most of the reports describe a mountain lion,- Dustin Parsons
Moore hung a silver pie plate in a tree, saying cats are attracted to the glistening light. He then hung a can of oysters from the plate and punctured a few holes to let out a fishy smell.
Finally, Moore and Parsons strapped a heat and motion-activated camera to a tree.
Parsons wants proof of the cougar's existence. He wants to stop all the rumours.
"It's confusing for some people," he said. "There have been reports of black cats, [and] reports of conventional mountain lions with tan colour and a long tail. From the people I've spoken to, most of the reports describe a mountain lion."
Parsons says his camera study has encouraged others to set up motion-activated trail cameras in locations at Big Falls near Cormack and Mt. Scio Road in St. John's.
A Corner Brook company, Western Motorsports, is giving out these cameras to anyone who wants to set one up to help capture a cougar in Newfoundland — if it does exist.
The cougar seekers have even started a website. If anyone has footage to share, they can go to www.findthebigcat.ca
Parsons and Moore haven't checked the footage on their camera just yet to see if they caught any possible mountain lions.