I've heard many tails
Enjoyed reading your cougar article [July 28: "Im-paws-ible? Vet sees 'cougar' on Parkway."] I've been interested in cougar stories for some time now.
My son's friends have a mountain house in Fancy Gap near the Blue Ridge Parkway and are sure there are cats there. They have seen them and their footprints in the snow of winter.
Another friend lived at Montebello and worked in Craigsville for a while. He had long days, and in the winter, it was usually getting dark when he returned to Montebello. Sometimes he came through Waynesboro up to Love and down the Parkway to Route 56.
On two occasions, he saw what surely was the outline of a cougar in his headlights. No other animal has a long rope-like tail on a long low-slung body.
Another son has a friend who saw one after he had shot a deer, with a bow, in Highland County about five years ago. He saw where the deer went, into a thicket and then waited a while to be sure it was dead before he went to collect it. What he found was a cougar eating the deer.
I imagine the cat was resting in the thicket, as it must have been daylight when he was surprised by the hunter. He sprinted away.
It's seldom possible to surprise any kind of feline. Since cats are night animals, I'm surprised [state wildlife biologist John] Rohm needs proof beyond what people obviously see.
There are too many isolated reports by serious people not to believe. I understand Jaguars are almost completely invisible to the people in the jungle habitats of Central and South America.
Even here in Waynesboro, some friends are almost certain they have had a visit from a cougar. They live at the foot of the mountain, but on the west or north side of the Sherando Road. They're in a heavily wooded area on South River near I-64 with lots of deer and other wildlife. There's a large conduit under the N&W railroad tracks that a cat could easily get through.
I'm firmly convinced there are cougars in these mountains– and why not? Storms in Florida are enough to make even cougars want to move north. And, as is clear from the air, there are hundreds of miles of mountains in all directions in the eastern states... and plenty of food. We even have a huge increase in bears. I think that may be due to the fruit on the Russian and autumn olives that have gone wild.