Thursday, July 17, 2008
Bill Cochran's Mailbag: Mountain lion sightings line up
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
- Virginia’s hunting totals produce mixed results
- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
BILL: I found your report of a mountain lion interesting (last week’s Cochran column). I saw one within a mile of my home in February 2007. I was jogging along the Moorman River and I saw a mountain lion cross the road about 6:45 a.m. Although it was fairly dark out, I could plainly see the long body and long tail and the cat gait. Its paws were wet and thus it left clear tracks across the road. Sadly, by the time I got home and drove back with a camera to document the size and placement of the paw prints on the pavement, they had evaporated so much as to not be worth a picture. I could have cried.
I can't help but wonder now if these big cats are moving back in just as coyotes have done. I wouldn't want people to feel we need to kill these big cats as we could certainly use the help of these felines to reduce deer populations. That is their role in the natural world. If folks would just learn about these animals and take appropriate precautions, we could live among them -- and we really should. Historical accounts say these cats were afraid of people and they were exterminated because they preyed upon cattle.
The problem nowadays is that people fear the natural world more than they do cars, even though they are in far more danger from traffic accidents than they ever will be from snakes, black widow spiders or cougars!
I used to wonder how there could be so many sightings because I was skeptical cougars were really here. Now I know at least one is, even though the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries doesn't seem to afford me the same amount of respect after reporting it that you've given your friend.
Author, “The Nature-Friendly Garden”
BILL: I am a member of Eastern Cougar Foundation. I have been interested and learning about the animal since I saw one at Peaks of Otter in 1995.
I assisted the foundation with a booth at the Bedford Outdoor Show in March. The booth had a map of the Bedford area with 31 alleged sightings. A summary of statewide sightings totaled 707, none of which produced scientific evidence of a cougar in Virginia. The booth included a study that shows the Blue Ridge Corridor as suitable cougar habitat. The show attracted over 1,500 people. We were inundated with people telling us what they had seen. As a result I have stopped counting sightings and now focus only on those that may produce scientific evidence.
I have had a rash of reported sightings from southern Bedford County since the first of the year, the last being about two weeks ago. I try to respond to some of the creditable sightings with trail cameras. I have two personal cameras, two on loan from the Smithsonian and should get one more from the cougar foundation soon.
To justify moving cameras to a sighting, the ideal thing would be to have what is throught to be a fresh deer kill. Just as I moved two cameras Friday from Botetourt County 33 miles south (to a new site) a sighting was reported from Buchanan near where I had just moved the cameras. I thought this could be a hoax but it lines up sequentially with the south Bedford sightings to Buchanan to Craig County. Could this have been the same cat?
BILL: Thanks for including our Ducks Unlimited Virginia conservation flier in your column. Unfortunately, that Web address is not correct. Use http://glaro.ducks.org to reach a literature library with all sorts of conservation information.
Public Affairs Coordinator