VEAZIE — Two days ago Dusty just vanished. A 5-year-old cat not known to wander, Dusty’s owners believe that she was another victim of a larger, undomesticated predator — a hungry fisher with an affinity for felines.
According to a local veterinarian, Dusty’s disappearance fits a “real striking pattern” of missing cats in Veazie during the past 18 months.
The mysterious pattern was first noticed in the fall of 1990 when about 20 house cats were reported missing on or near the Chase Road. At that time there was concern that either a coyote or a fisher was getting the cats.
Veterinarian Chris Miles said that things were quiet for a while, but within a few months about a dozen cats were reported missing near the Thompson Road. In September 1991, a fisher was spotted downtown and several cats disappeared from that area, Miles said.
Some neighbors got together and hired a trapper to set traps around the area. Miles said she was told that the trapper located the fisher’s den near the riverbank and found several cat carcasses inside the den.
Once again things quieted down in the town, but during the last several weeks, a fisher has been spotted hanging around near the Veazie Veterinary Clinic, located near the home of Ann Poor, Dusty’s owner.
On Thursday night, Poor opened her front door to let her dog out and came across two fishers in her driveway. That’s when she became convinced that Dusty was not coming home.
Miles said that in the last few weeks about three cats have disappeared from the Highview Terrace neighborhood where Poor lives.
“It certainly seems coincidental that several cats disappear about the same time that a fisher is seen in the area,” she said.
Veazie Police Chief Frank Crowley has attempted to help Veazie pet owners find a solution to the problem, but said he was told by game wardens that there was nothing they could do. He also was told that he would be breaking the law if he shot the fisher, he said.
Warden Sgt. Michael Marshall said the fisher was protected wildlife, but could be shot if caught damaging a person’s property, which would include pets.
Marshall said the most that game wardens could do for people bothered by nuisance animals would be to offer advice that would include calling a private animal trapper.
“I feel very strongly that the warden service should be able to help out in the case. It is a wildlife problem,” said Crowley.
Poor has contacted a private trapper and is planning to have traps set up in the area, but feels that she should not have to try and catch the fisher alone.
State Rep. Mary Cathcart, D-Orono, said she heard of the pet owners’ plight in Veazie and on Friday was making calls to wildlife experts and trying to help find a solution.
Poor said she might understand the position of game wardens if it was an isolated incident. Poor said Friday that the problem was ongoing and communitywide and did not appear to be going away. Poor said she thought the problem had gone beyond a nuisance and deserved the attention of state wildlife officials.
Marshall said that he found it difficult to believe that fishers were responsible for the disappearances and said that fishers normally dine on red squirrels and field mice. He said that any meat-eating animal larger then a cat would eat a cat, and that fishers were probably not responsible for the majority of the problem.
Miles said she did not know a lot about fishers, but said the disappearances were mysterious and appeared to occur simultaneously with fisher sightings.
“We are pretty much advising people who live in the neighborhoods where the fisher is spotted to keep their animals inside at night,” said Miles.
She further stated that no cat carcasses were found when the cats disappeared, which was even more mysterious.
“If they were being hit by cars, we would be finding bodies. Coyotes generally eat what they catch immediately and don’t drag it home, and you normally would find parts of carcasses somewhere. These cats disappear without a trace,” said Miles.