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Police issue warning after large cats reported in Westford

Keep eye on pets, small children

An animal resembling a mountain lion was seen in Westford Thursday. The one above was photographed in Ipswich in 1997. An animal resembling a mountain lion was seen in Westford Thursday. The one above was photographed in Ipswich in 1997.

WESTFORD - Keith Bohne was impressed when he spotted what looked like a bobcat on his 30-acre apple orchard, Drew Farm, last Sunday morning.

But the sighting of a second large feline - possibly a mountain lion - in the woodsy neighborhood in the past week has police cautioning residents to keep an eye on small children and pets.

A resident reported seeing a mountain lion near Reinsway Circle and Tadmuck Road Thursday, a police spokeswoman said yesterday. Although the sighting has not been confirmed, police are investigating and say the spotting is credible, she said. She would not comment further on the investigation.

Police placed automated phone calls to residents in the neighborhood around Tadmuck Road Friday to alert them about the sighting, residents said.

Although there are frequent reports of mountain lion sightings in Massachusetts, the last confirmed sighting in the state was in Hampshire County in 1858, according to the state's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife website. Mountain lions, the largest of the wild cats in the United States, are red-brown or gray-brown in color, 6 to 8 feet in length, and have long tails. While common in California, they are thought to have been nearly extinct in the Eastern region since being placed on the list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 1973, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Services.

Bobcats, identifiable by their short tails, are commonly seen in Western, Central, and northeastern Massachusetts, according to MassWildlife.

Bohne, 63, said he was spraying his orchard to prevent poison ivy when a friend called to him. . A mottled gray cat was 40 feet away, "about the size of a female German shepherd," he said. "It sat there long enough that we got a good look at it," he said. "We thought it was a bobcat, because we could clearly see that it didn't have a long tail. . . . He checked us out and just walked off."

The area surrounding Drew Farm and Reinsway Circle is a mixture of woods, open space, and an adjacent swamp, he said. It is possible the cat reported Thursday is the same one he encountered, Bohne said, but he is not worried for his safety.

"If the bobcat would hang around and eat some of the mice in the orchard, I'd be happy, but there are rabbits and woodchucks in the orchard, too," he said. "Lots of possible sources of food."

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