Like some other residents of this small town, Mary Elizabeth Goodwyn doesn’t go outside after dark much anymore. Goodwyn, 81, used to welcome the dusk under a red maple tree in her front yard every evening, but that was before cougars started showing up in Blackstone — at least in the local newspaper.
Since 2003, the Courier-Record has run at least 15 stories on cougar sightings in town and in the neighboring 41,000-acre Army National Guard training base.
Wildlife officials say that except for a known population of 100 in Florida, the large cats — also called mountain lions, pumas, panthers and the fitting “ghost cats” — were wiped out in the eastern United States by 1900. They claim sightings most likely are cases of mistaken identity — perhaps a bobcat, deer or even a Labrador retriever.
“The sense I get is there are a number of game commission people laughing, and that bothers me a bit because we’ve got good people here who aren’t crazy,” said Billy Coleburn, who as editor of the paper wrote most of the stories. – ss