Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Here Kitty, Kitty...

I didn't take this picture, but this is what we have been seeing.
I saw it two years ago. My son saw it last fall. My dad saw what he thinks was one three years ago while baling hay.

What? A mountain lion. Yes, here in central Wisconsin. Sort of ups the anty at the top of the food pyramid, doesn't it?

And now, I've seen tracks. Lots of tracks in fresh snow on days where the temperature didn't approach double digits. No melting snow explanations. Tracks I could have followed had I wanted a closer look. Huge tracks, scary huge. No, I don't have a picture. Yes, I should have grabbed my camera and gone right back and taken some pictures. I was running short of time. I didn't have time to go back.

It's a sunny day here in central Wisconsin and I told my son as he left for school, I would go feed his mountain lion for him. It's our new joke.

He was asked and paid to run out and put out food and unfrozen water for a couple stray cats for some snowbirds we know. The cats really are strays, but the woman likes to see them fed. I cautioned her against it, that they would move on and find somewhere else to get a handout. I told her she would just attract raccoons, mice, and rats to the enclosed area by her summer home, maybe even squirrels and a stray bear or coyote.

They like to watch deer in their yard, and I do some gardening for them from time to time, so this is always in the mix. They have had turkey hatch in their hedgerow and file across their yard. They like the wild life their summer home affords them.

I warned them.

When I saw it "in the fur", it was about 15 miles from where these tracks are. It was about dusk on an August night and it ran across the road in front of my truck full tilt. Good thing, because it was so close, it was a race. My boxer weighs 65 pounds, this animal was about twice that. And there is no mistaking that tail, nearly as long as its body flying out behind. I would have guessed it as juvenile, nine months to a year old. I figured it for a temporarilied escaped pet as the road I was driving is near a large campground that can swell to over 5,000 residents on summer weekends.

Last fall, the DNR reported the sightings, confirmed by trailcam, of one in Adams county (about 50 miles from here). They reported they believed it to be a young male "just moving through" and that the general public need get too excited. The DNR also reports mountain lions as extinct east of the Mississippi River. They do report there are as many as 1,000 mountain lions held privately as exotic pets in the eastern United States.

(Okay, the bit about offering small children is a little over the line, but the other advice is supposedly sound.)

The mountain lion my son saw was just casually sitting at the side of the road, like a cat sits. He told me it didn't seem worried about his car at all. He saw his about three miles from where I had seen mine the year before.

So this also leads me to what I didn't see. I didn't see any deer track criss-crossing my friends' yard. I didn't see any raccoon or turkey tracks. I did see a few small bird tracks, some older domesticated cat tracks, and then the mountain lion tracks, about three times the size of my boxer's, and not dog-like in any regard. The tracks came over to the bowls of cat kibble and water, and followed the shape of the house to the other corner of the yard, then they may have sniffed at my son's tracks and walked across the patio and returned the way they came into the pine woods.

The last time my son went out to be sure the cats had water and food he took a flash light, baseball bat, and his jack knife. At 6'3" and 210, at least it would be a fair fight.

So, we've had a fresh snow. And my son has had a brutal schedule of basketball, like 8 games in 11 days. It's a sunny day. So I told my son, I'd run out and feed the cats...


  1. We have been seeing a cougar up here for years and only in the past year or so does the DNR actually admit that they are here. Well, they don't have to admit that it is here, when so many people have witnessed it. I mean, one does NOT mistake that size of cat for ANYTHING else. Hopefully it will move along to another location soon! They have a huge territory.
    Stay safe my friend!

  2. What a vast beast and gives a frisson to walking the dog! Mountain lion looks closely related to the African species - how on earth did it get to Wisconsin?

  3. It could have been a released exotic pet, but sometimes they range over large areas. Most likely it is a free-ranging male from South Dakota or Wyoming that has roamed up through northern Minnesota and finally down to central Wisconsin. There was an incident where one was shot outside of NYC where they traced the DNA back to others in SD back in 2009, rather than being an escaped exotic. But like DebiO says the DNR are in denial they are here permanently in Wisconsin. Funny, the DNR says there are over 3,800 wolves in Wisconsin and my son and I have only seen one. No one else I know has seen a wolf in Waushara county. But I know several people who have seen tracks or the actual big cat and they are supposedly extinct east of the Mississippi. So how many might there be?