First an old friend and new resident of Amherst who, on a fall afternoon in the car with her teenage son, saw a cougar cross the road in front of her on Northeast Street in Amherst. Then a sighting by another woman who spotted a cougar out the window of her Mount Warner Road home in North Hadley. Barbara Breuer says she was speaking to her husband, Matthew, on the phone when she got a good side view of the big cat running parallel to the road, then an eyeful from the rear before it disappeared. Mount Warner Road is not five miles from the Northeast Street sighting; certainly close enough to stir suspicion.

“I know it was no poodle,” she joked. “It had the tail of a cougar and the movement of a big cat.”

Breuer, who grew up in the Berkshires and is familiar with wildlife sightings, said she was stunned by what she saw, having never heard of cougars in the region. But now she’s convinced they’re here, despite what “the authorities” say.

Because Matthew Breuer thought the public should be aware that a big cat is lurking, he called the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton. He was concerned it could be a public-safety issue for hikers, joggers or trick-or-treaters. So, the sighting was brought to light Friday in a Gazette story headlined “Big cat in Hadley…cougar?”

The story had legs. “I’ve already had two calls from women who have also seen a cougar locally,” Breuer said. “One was in North Amherst, so it could have been the same animal. She told me (state authorities) confirmed the presence of a cougar not long ago at the Quabbin through scat analysis but refuse to acknowledge the possibility that they’re here.

“Why do they deny it?” she asked. “Do you know why? It seems strange to me.”

I told the curious, articulate lady that I’ve heard one interesting theory related to endangered species and development or logging rights, but had no definitive answer. The fact is that I, too, wonder why wildlife officials refuse to admit the possibility that cougars are re-emerging in reforested New England, despite a growing number of credible eyewitnesses who swear they’ve seen them.

If the big cats are, indeed, on the comeback trail, it’s only a matter of time before one winds up dead on the side of the road. Even Doubting-Thomas wildlife experts admit that.

It could happen.

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