Friday, September 25, 2009

Panthers and Housecats and Bears; Oh My!

****The following does not necessarily represent the opinion of KYPRP as a whole and should not be viewed in such a manner. This is the opinion of the author, Brian Peck.***

Ok. So there have been numerous sightings of a large predatory black cat in Lexington. KY Dept. of Fish and Wildlife have responded by saying that what people are seeing is either a large house cat, or a coyote. They have went so far as to ask that the people living in the area take picures/video of what they are seeing so that they can use it verify what is actually being seen. News groups are reporting on the sightings and posting the information on their websites. However, what I haven't seen and/or heard was what Dept. of Fish and Wildlife was going to do other than to review the evidence that people gather.

Let's think about this for a moment. Wouldn't it make more sense for them to simply set camera traps up to attempt to discern what type of animal this is? This is exactly the reason why more people don't come forward with sightings of things. They are immediately met with skepticism (which is a good thing if you know how to be skeptical without being rude) and told that they mis-identified another animal. Then, once the story is out (similar with the sightings in Lexington), you have the message boards mocking you about your sighting. All the while, people whose job it is look into this type of thing, sit back and ask the "civilian" to do their work because they don't have time to waste looking for something that isn't there.

Here's a little story: Several years back, my family had a blue heeler name Blue. Blue was gettign up there in years and she was slowly losing her hearing. One day, we came home from work (I was still living at home then, working through the day and finishing up my masters degree with evening classes), to find that our dog had been attacked with deep puncture wounds several inches apart. We tood her to the vet and we asked what could have caused that. He jokingly told us a bear (he later pulled my parents aside and told them in seriousness that it appeared to be a bear attack). This prompted us to call Fish and Wildlife, and as usual, we were told that it must have been coyotes because there were no black bears in the Wolfe, Morgan, Menifee county area.

We brought Blue home and nursed her back to health and in no time, she was back on her feet. Then one spring morning, as I left for work, I saw Blue stretched out up near the front of the house. Thinking nothing of it, I left for work. That afternoon when I got home (my parents were at the hospital in Lexington staying with my ailing grandmother), Blue was still laying in the exact same place in the same position. I walked up to her, and found that she was dead. When I rolled her over, there were slash wounds and some of her entrails were hanging out. I looked around on the ground and found the blood path. I followed this to the other side of the family camper, where I found some pretty good sized bear tracks. I then called a friend of mine who works for Fish and Wildlife and told him what had happened. He was the only person who actually listened.

I then called my parents and told them that Blue was dead and that I had found a ton of bear tracks around. My father called Fish and Wildlife to alert them what had happened. They gave him the normal song and dance about it being coyotes. When he told them that we had found tracks to prove it, they said that we were mis-indentifying some other animal and that there were no bears in that area (we all knew this was incorrect as the local newpaper in Wolfe county had ran pictures before of black bears in a small community only several miles from our house, complete with pictures). My dad then proceeded to let F & W know that he was taking the story to local papers. Once the stories ran, then F & W sent a biologist out to the house to view the footprints, only for them to say that it was a bear.

My grievance with F & W is that they hardly ever look into the types of claims that is outside of their "comfort" zone. The simplest way that I can think of would be for F & W to obtain the permission from the golf course (which, would be a very good place I would think for a large cat to hide out at...water source, trees, small animals in/around the trees makes for a varitable food source), and simply bait an area or two and install motion cameras to see what they could capture. It may turn out to be an overly large house cat or even a coyote, but would it really hurt to try?

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