I didn’t take a picture of the “mountain lion”

A common critical observation in cryptid circles is as follows:

With everyone having readily available technology in their pockets or within reach, there should be plenty of high-quality imagery of cryptids (or mysterious entities of any type) if they really are around as claimed.

Yesterday was one of several instances where I saw something that may have been intriguing but failed to get documentation of it. It led me to think less of (but not dismiss entirely) the claim that we should have more visual evidence. Firstly, it is factual that there are more security cameras, game trail cameras, and other automatic visual recording devices operating today that should, logically, obtain interesting footage. There are many outstanding examples of trail cams that have captured rare animals, animals outside of an assumed range, and remarkable situations that have proved enlightening. Those cameras aren’t thinking. My incident, which I believe others frequently experience as well, shows that our very human attempt to make sense of what we see results in missed documentation.

Around 11 AM, my husband and I were traveling in an area of Adams County, PA, an area of rolling hills and orchards between the forested high ground. We hadn’t realized that this area was a very obvious and mapped dead spot in cellular coverage. I’d pulled over to the side of the country road while he attempted to refresh the navigational maps on both phones. While waiting, and trying to keep my annoyance at the whole situation under control, I gazed across the road to a property with a house, shed, flower garden and medium-sized trees and shrubs when a shape moving across the yard caught my eye. It was tawny-colored, walking at a slow pace in front of the shed towards the house. Had I to guess, I might have been 150 yards from the shed and animal that looked very much like a mountain lion at first glance. Knowing what I know about mistaken IDs of such cats and the fact that they do not live here, I watched the creature move while trying to discern the head and tail and a better reference to size. The vegetation and our locational problem at hand got in the way of my focus on the thing. I recall at the time being annoyed at the lack of a clear view and could not approach the object to take a closer look. We drove off. Only a few minutes later did I think “I should have taken a picture!” I didn’t even think to mention this to my husband who was busy and would have brushed it off anyway.

In June 2016, a woman in Massachusetts was sure she saw a mountain lion. The picture she did manage to take is undoubtedly a domestic cat.

This is similar to what I saw at a greater distance but I could not see the head clearly to see if it was bigger or could not view the form in total to discern if it was a dog. My picture would have been far less helpful, had I managed to pull one off.

Many accounts of “big cats” have turned out to be misinterpreted house cats or dogs. I suspect what I saw was a tan retriever-type dog or a large housecat. A more enthusiastic person might relate a different, more dramatic tale. The time I spent waiting to get a clearer view as the animal moved along, and trying to work out exactly what it was meant my phone was never engaged. I have nothing but a memory that gets warped a bit more with every recollection.

I have little doubt that this would happen to me again as I’m more interested in confirming if there is something to actually be excited about before taking a picture. Taking a photo is a decisive action, one that takes an effort of removing focus from the object and engaging the technology. Sometimes, you just can’t look away to get that job done if you’re busy attempt to sort out what you are looking at. It’s not like a spotting scope or binoculars you might use to clarify your view. A cell phone picture is not as good as your eyesight. I’m sure the same lost opportunity befalls MANY other people who think they see something unusual, spend a bit of time trying to work out what it is, and then it’s gone. I’m not all that surprised we don’t have better photographic evidence. We take too long trying to make sense of whether it’s worth it. I don’t know if there is a take away lesson here except to always have a camera at the ready (usually not realistic), but I do know that the conclusion from the evidence and reasoning show that I didn’t see a mountain lion walking in a rural backyard that day.

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