The Curious Catamount

Mar 21, 2023

Though said to be extinct, catamounts live on in the minds of many Vermonters. In this episode we retrace a Barnard panther hunt from 1881 and consider the hold that these big cats continue to have on our imaginations.

This Episode’s Featured Object:

“The Barnard Panther” at the Vermont History Museum

Amanda Gustin:​ I‘ve seen some kids that get a little afraid of it. I’ve seen some kids that have to be dragged screaming away from it because they’re so fascinated by it. But there’s something about the catamount, the magnetism of the catamount, that even persists in this physical object.

Steve Perkins: I think there’s so many stories this one object can tell.

Stuffed tan catamount in a glass case at the Vermont History Museum
Man from the 1880s cradling a gun leaning against a fake tree with a dead panther in front of him
John Hunt wearing a black and white checked wool shirt and a long reddish beard

Images: Alexander Crowell, who killed what was known as “The Barnard panther” had the animal taxidermied. He brought it around the state, charging people to see it, before giving it to the Vermont Historical Society.

John Hunt of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation.

Hands on the Land: A History of the Vermont Landscape by Jan Albers was published by MIT Press in 2000.

Author Joe Citro.


Book cover of Hands on the Land by Jan Albers, showing a Vermont mountain scene
Author Joe Citro wearing a denim jacket and a ball cap, leaning between two trees

Episode Transcript

Paige Gibbs: Now, if you could please close your eyes while I count to 10. One, two, three, four…

Ryan Newswanger: Hi, Ryan Newswanger here. I’m one of the producers of Before Your Time.

Paige: All right, you may open your eyes. And welcome to November 24th, 1881.

Ryan: Last fall producer Amanda Kay Gustin and I met Paige Gibbs from the Barnard Historical Society on a dirt road between Barnard and East Barnard, where I live. A bunch of other folks from the Barnard area came as well.

Paige: So let’s start. We’re looking for deer. That’s all we want. We want to take a deer home, not for dinner tonight, but in the near future.

Ryan: Paige led us on an imaginary hunt through some fields off Sayer Road. Many folks say the last catamount in Vermont was shot in these fields.

Read the full transcript.

Episode Credits

Before Your Time is presented by Vermont Humanities and the Vermont Historical Society. This episode was produced by Amanda Kay Gustin and Ryan Newswanger, with help from Hannah Kirkpatrick. Thanks to our guests: John Hunt, Jan Albers, Jeff Schulman, and Joe Citro.

Music is by Michael Chapman and the Woodpiles, Hemlock, Draganov, Augustine, and Ari Goldstein.