An unidentified resident of the Boston suburb of Winchester says he saw a mountain lion in the Dunster Lane, Pepper Hill Drive neighborhood on Tuesday. Massachusetts Environmental Police responded to the claim and found paw prints that resemble those of a mountain lion at the scene. While many see this as proof of the sighting, the incident remains open to investigation.

Mountain lions have not been officially documented in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1858. There have been numerous sightings since then but none have been confirmed.

It is possible that mountain lions are returning to areas they once held after a 156-year absence? Like most cats, they adapt easily and can live quite well in suburban areas. A 140-pound lion was killed in an accident involving an SUV on a Connecticut highway in June 2011. That animal was tagged and scientists determined from that tag that the cat had traveled all the way from South Dakota to get there. National Wildlife Federation scientist Hector Galbraith points to this example as a possibility that the Massachusetts sighting could prove legitimate.

NWF naturalist David Mizejewski isn’t so sure. He told the Associated Press people often exaggerate or misinterpret the size of an animal when seen from a distance. One Winchester resident told the AP that he’s seen a fisher cat, a medium-sized animal from the weasel family, in the area and that is most likely what this man saw.

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