A concerted effort is about to be launched to try and finally capture an image of the big cats being reported in Newfoundland.
Sightings of alleged large wild cats, some of them black and some a lighter brown, have been reported all across the island for years.
The fact no photos, videos or other empirical evidence such as fur, scat or positively identified paw prints, have ever been produced only adds to the belief the existence of these cats is nothing more than mythical.
Dustin Parsons of Pasadena admits he is among the skeptics, but he is not prepared to just blindly dismiss the number of sightings, many from credible folks who have no good reason to be making up their stories.
Parsons has put together a plan that will involve distributing 15 heat- and motion-detecting cameras in areas where there have been reported sightings of large wild felines.
He has partnered with Western Motor Sports in Corner Brook, which has purchased the cameras and will be loaning them out to a select few people or groups. A couple of people who have reported sightings have already been approached about taking cameras and installing them in locations they think might be frequented by the creatures.
Kirk Moore of Deer Lake has already set up a camera and bait station in an area around 20 kilometres southeast of his hometown where he said he saw a cougar seven years ago. Moore said he was moose hunting when he saw a large animal with a long tail in the tall grass near a stand of birch trees.
He has spent more than four decades in the woods and is confident what he saw was not a lynx, the wild cat known to live in Newfoundland.
“I think this is a wonderful idea to get everybody’s stories out there and to try and dispel the myth,” he said. “I know what I seen. It’s going to take some time, but I think this (project) will eventually prove these cats are out there and help us deal with how we can learn to live with the experience of knowing they are there.”
Each person who requests a camera will be vetted to make sure they are responsible enough to maintain and eventually return the cameras, not to mention check them regularly and submit any interesting images captured.
The project will involve using techniques known to attract lynx, including using shiny reflective tin plates and fishy-smelling bait, but Parsons is open to other suggestions.
“We want to open it up to any experts or self-proclaimed experts on techniques and methods for drawing in these cats,” said Parsons.
He knows getting the elusive footage being sought might be a shot in the dark. What he won’t do is simply accept statements from people with extensive experience in the woods who claim these cats don’t exist because they would have seen them by now.
“That is such an egotistical statement and doesn’t acknowledge how big and vast Newfoundland is,” he said.
He realizes the mystery surrounding the reported sightings likely will not disappear if these cameras do not produce an image of one. To Parsons, it’s still a neat exercise to pursue.
“If there was a concerted wholesale effort by people across the province and nothing was found, I think it might simmer down some of (the debate),” he said. “On the other side, it’s just a great reason to get outside and be part of some research. Who knows what we will see if you set up 15 cameras and bait them for predators.”
Jeff Freake, manager of Western Motor Sports, said he has always been intrigued by the thought of big cats in the wilds of Newfoundland and wanted to help see if any answers can be found.
“We have all heard these big cat myths for years and we would love to be a part of trying to find out if they are actually out there,” he said of why his company purchased the cameras for this undertaking.
To participate in the big cat project, go to the website https://www.findthebigcat.ca and submit an email address.