Wildlife Expert Settles Score on Bizarre Mystery Cat Seen on Maine Trail Cam

by Amy Myers

Recently, a Maine resident caught some sort of moderately-big cat on a trail cam, and since sharing it, a debate has spurred over just what this mystery animal could be.

On August 15, Franklin County locals Al and Joyce Brackley found the feline crossing a lit bridge on their trail cam and showed their son, Neil.

“We have shown it to family members and several others, including a Maine game warden with many years of service,” Al Brackley said. “It would be interesting to see what other people would call the animal.”

Al, himself, is a University of Maine forestry graduate who has become quite familiar with the state’s vital woodlands, including spruce and fir forests.

“Note the stringers on the bridge are 16 feet in length and if you start applying ratios the animal is larger than would be expected for a bobcat or lynx,” he said, suggesting evidence of a mountain lion.

Because the photo comes from a night-vision camera, we can’t see too many details regarding the mystery cat’s coloration, spots and frame. That leaves many of the animal’s features up for discussion, flooding the comments with arguments for each animal.

However, it was Shevenell Webb, a furbearer biologist from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, who finally put the debate to rest.

“The photo looks like a bobcat, even from a distance, because its feet are not large and legs are not as long as a lynx would be,” Webb said of the photo. “Its hind end is level with [its] back, whereas the hips for lynx are a little taller than the rest of the body.”

Webb also maintained that Maine does not have any known mountain lion populations, ruling out the third mystery cat option. Check out the trail cam photo here.

Bobcat, Lynx, Cougar… What’s the Difference? Mystery Cats Explained

From a far enough distance or perhaps a grainy-enough photo, it’s easy to mistake all three of these types of mystery cats for one another.

While bobcats and lynx belong to the same genus (also called Lynx), bobcats are notably smaller with signature stubby tails that look like they just haven’t had the chance to grow completely. Bobcats also have dark stripes on their forelegs and tail, whereas lynx have a larger stature and legs as well as those tell-tale tufts of dark hair at the tip of their ears.

If the animal were a lynx, it would be of the Canadian variety. Within the northern and western Maine spruce/fir flats, there are between 750 and 1,000 adult lynxes lurking. The bobcat population in the state, too, is thriving.

That leaves mountain lions (also called cougars). Though native to the Americas with populations as far north as the Canadian Yukon, they have not yet settled into the Pine Tree State, likely because of the already intense wildcat competition. Unlike lynx and bobcats, cougars are much more distinguishable and are much larger than their fellow felines. In fact, a bobcat is only a third of the size of a mountain lion. Additionally, these larger cats lack the spotted coats of the lynx and bobcat.

Of course, whichever cat you run into in Maine or elsewhere, you won’t want to stick around long to find out which one it is.