Identity of big cat photographed in Granby subject of dispute
GRANBY — What was it that Mike and Donna Major saw in their backyard on Sunday? The couple say it was a cougar, an animal widely held to be extinct in the Eastern U.S.
Wildlife biologists from the state Department of Fish and Game say it was a bobcat, seldom sighted but not uncommon in the area. They based their determination on photos Mike Major took of the creature.
“After checking with several of our wildlife biologists, we’ve determined it’s a bobcat,” Fish and Game spokesman Reggie Zimmerman said, adding the decision was based on distinctive markings on the animal’s coat.
“We could tell from black barring on its front legs, face ruffs and ear tufts,” he said.
Donna Major does not accept the Fish and Game assessment.
“I’ve seen bobcats. I know what they look like,” she said Wednesday. “When it ran away, it didn’t have a short tail, it had a nice long one.
“It was too tall to be a bobcat.”
A couple who were visiting the Majors also saw the animal, she said.
Donna Major said the animal she observed on Sunday had facial features more like a house cat than a bobcat and also lacked the distinctive side whiskers that bobcats have, she said.
Bobcats have gray to brown coats, whiskered faces and black-tufted ears. They are about twice the size of a typical house cat.
The feline had “massive” paws, larger than a bobcat’s, Mike Major said.
“The key things are that it had black markings around its mouth, striping on its legs and the long tail — that’s a dead giveaway,” he said.
He said Fish and Game officials are welcome to visit his property and measure a tree near the spot the animal sat to determine the animal’s size. They can also look for paw prints, he said.
“I have no problem with them coming at all,” he said. “I’d welcome it.”
Police Chief Alan Wishart declined Wednesday to weigh in with an opinion on whether the animal was a cougar or a bobcat, saying, “I’m no expert.”
But he pointed out that the sighting Major reported was unusual because more than one witness saw the animal and there are photos as proof.
“It’s a pretty good picture,” he said. “Other people in the house saw it, too. It’s a really large cat, that’s for sure.”