Nartowicz Sighting

Another witness with no reason to lie or desire for publicity came forward to report a cougar sighting on Routes 5 & 10 in Deerfield.

“What exactly are they, anyways?” asked Steve Nartowicz of Greenfield. “I call it a mountain lion. Is that right? Or is it a cougar?”

Fact is it doesn’t matter. Cougar and mountain lion are acceptable, as are catamount, panther and wildcat; same predatory beast, different names. The official name for the indigenous Norhteastern animal is Eastern cougar.

Anyway, back to the Nartowicz sighting …

Traveling to work in South Deerfield before 7 a.m. on the last day of January, Nartowicz had passed Savage’s Market and, some 50 yards behind another car, was approaching the right-hand curve into the Wapping settlement when something on the east side of the road caught his attention. Reflex caused him to let off the gas pedal and, when the car ahead of him passed the critter, it quickly crossed the road in front of him. In three quick bounds the animal was across the pavement and on the lip overlooking a marsh, where it decided to climb about four feet up a small tree and look back at Nartowicz’s slow-moving vehicle. When the vehicle reached the animal and Nartowicz looked it square in the face from 10 or 15 feet away, it jumped down and ran west, toward the South Meadows and the stone-crusher section of the Deerfield River.

“I really don’t know much about cougar tendencies so I can’t say what it was trying to accomplish by climbing that tree,” Nartowicz said, “but it just stood there suspended, tail touching the ground, like it was waiting for me to pass. Then when I got too close, it took off.

“I was shocked. It was definitely a cougar. I saw its ears, it nose, its eyes. I know what coyotes look like,” and probably also knows they don’t climb trees.”

For this middle-aged scribbler it’s usually difficult to assess cougar sightings, many of which have been brought to my attention, because I know nothing about the witnesses. This case is different. Very much so. I happen to know Nartowicz and his family, having grown up around them in my hometown of South Deerfield, and it’s difficult for me to believe he was spinning a yarn.

“What are the state officials saying, anyway? Do they admit they’re here?” he asked.

“No,” I responded. “They refuse to acknowledge the presence of cougars in New England.”

As you can imagine, he had trouble accepting that.

“Unbelievable!” he said, choosing instead to believe his eyes.

Can’t say I blame him.

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