Craig Carter can’t say for certain what it was he saw crossing the Trans-Canada Highway on Barachois Hill near J.T. Cheeseman Park on June 2.
But he is sure it looked like a large cat, and it had a tail.
“The tail was at least three feet long,” said Carter. “I almost ran into it. I had to apply the brakes.”
He said the colour of the animal was sort of gray. He said based on that alone, he at first thought it was a lynx.
“But then I thought, you know, I don’t think a lynx has a tail.”
A search on the Internet when he got home confirmed that.
The weather was rainy and misty when he spotted the animal, which was around noon.
Carter said a vehicle that was travelling behind him had to slow when he slowed down. He wonders if that person saw what he saw.
I know it wasn’t a house cat,” said Carter. “I’ve got enough sense for that. It would be the size of a cougar or something along those lines.”
There have been periodic reports of large cats on the island. One story posted on the Western Star’s website from 2009 recounts a black panther sighting near Port aux Choix. Comments attached to the story have other unverified eyewitness accounts of large cats dating to March of this year.
John Blake, director of wildlife with the province, said cougars or pumas have never been native to the island of Newfoundland.
He said at one time, there were large wildcats all over the North American mainland.
The province generally gets reports of sightings such as this every year, though they always turn out to be inconclusive.
“From a biological perspective and a natural history perspective we are interested in receiving any sorts of information or reports about unique species that are not normally found here,” said Blake.
He said officials from the department of Natural Resources would follow up on any reports such as this.
Blake said when officials do follow up on these sorts of calls, they often turn out to be lynx, which are on the island. Black bears, coyotes and even otters can also be mistaken for large cats from a distance.
“I’m not ruling out the possibility at any time that these things can occur that it actually would be a cougar,” said Blake. “But we don’t have any proof of that for sure.”