Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Photographs show a mountain lion on the patio deck of a home.
Examples: [Collected via e-mail, February, 2007]
Origins: These images apparently depict one wide-roaming mountain lion/puma/cougar, as
Ron Andrews, a furbearer resource specialist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, noted that although these pictures are often accompanied by a legend placing the scene in Fort Dodge, confirmed mountain lion sightings in Iowa are fairly rare:
"It's been over two years since we've had a validated sighting in Iowa."We spoke with Dave Hamilton of the Missouri Department of Conservation's Mountain Lion Response Team, who has been tracking these pictures, and he informed us that they were actually taken back around 2001 or 2002 by
During that time, he said, there have been numerous reports of mountain lions slinking through the state, but 98 to
Topping the list of these would-be cougars are dogs, Andrews said, most often yellow Labs or light-colored German shepherds. In the southern parts of the state, many mistake native bobcats for mountain lions despite a difference in size and the bobcat's shorter tail. Even deer can be mistaken as the feline predator because of its similar coloring.
Around a half dozen tracks have been confirmed, Andrews said, and only three cougar carcasses have been found since the animals disappeared from the Iowa landscape more than a century ago. Evidence has shown the big cats will roam through the state, he added, but they are often young males pushed out of territories in the west by older, more dominant males. The animals could even be former pets.
As Mr. Hamilton noted in his article on "Cougar Hysteria," these photographs do not depict an occurrence unusual to the area where they originated:
Wyoming is a western state with a population of several thousand cougars.Update: In February 2008, these same photos began circulating yet again, this time with text identifying them as having been taken near Findlay in Shelby County, Illinois, prompting a denial from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) of claims that the department was deliberately releasing big cats in the state:
"While it is not completely impossible for a cougar to be found in Illinois, sighting of a wild one is highly unlikely," said Acting IDNR Director Sam Flood.Last updated: 3 March 2008
"Wild cougars have been found in neighboring states but, again, very, very rarely."
Flood also addressed rumors sometimes mentioned in these hoax
"It is absolutely not true that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is releasing cougars anywhere in the state for any reason," Flood said.
While the IDNR does investigate several alleged cougar sightings each year, most, if not all,turn out to be a case of mistaken identity. The animals most often mistaken for cougars are coyotes, bobcats, or large domestic dogs or cats.
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