What can a catamount tell us about how Vermont has changed?
Have you ever seen a catamount in Vermont? Maybe you’ve seen the UVM catamount at a basketball game, or the catamount at the Vermont History Museum. Some people say they have seen a catamount in the woods.
Catamounts are large wild cats that are also called panthers, cougars or mountain lions. The last catamount killed in Vermont was shot in 1881. This catamount is on display at the Vermont History Museum.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1881, a boy named James Cadwell was hunting in Barnard. He noticed tracks in the snow and started following them. After awhile, he saw what had made the tracks – a huge panther! Cadwell asked Alexander Crowell, a hunter, for help.
Why did Alexander Crowell shoot the catamount?
In the wild, catamounts ate deer and other animals. But in the 1800s, farmers had cut down many trees and turned forests into farms. Without the trees, there were not as many deer as before. The catamounts started eating sheep that lived on farms. The farmers and hunters killed the panthers to protect their sheep.
Why is this catamount famous?
After Crowell shot the catamount, he had his picture taken with the animal. People could buy pictures of the huge animal. After he was stuffed, the catamount was taken all over Vermont for people to see. For 10 cents, people could see the monster panther! Later on, the catamount was given to the museum. Come visit the catamount when you are in Montpelier.
Some people say they have seen catamounts over the years. There are many more trees in Vermont now than there were 130 years ago. There might be more places for catamounts to hide. But scientists have not found any proof of catamounts in Vermont.
If there are catamounts in Vermont, it is illegal to shoot them now. Catamounts are endangered animals.
Thinking about History
James Cadwell said "we felt that we were a brave crowd or a foolish one; you must judge for yourselves which." Do you think hunting the catamount was brave or foolish? Why?
What would you do if you saw a catamount in the woods?
|Monster Panther poster - high quality scan transcription (PDF)|
|The Whole Truth? Which story about the catamount hunt should we believe?|
|Visit the Vermont History Museum|