Mountain Lions in the East?
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article asking whether mountain lions are extinct in the Eastern United States. A comment in the piece from a 62-year-old dentist is representative: “My sighting is ABSOLUTE. I know what I saw.”
This corner of the off-beat has intrigued me since purchasing a small farm in Maury County, TN, southwest of Nashville. The farm is in a rural area, with a mix of forest and fields, hills and hollers, but otherwise is not exceptional.
Since I’ve owned the property, I’ve heard stories from local people who are certain they have seen mountain lions in the area. In each case, the witness is sane and sober so far as I can tell.
One day I ran into the Tennessee Wildlife Resources agent for Maury County in a local country store and asked her about the reported sightings. Her remarks were consistent with those cited in the Wall Street Journal article:
“Mountain lions are extinct in the East. There hasn’t been a confirmed animal in Tennessee in well over 100 years, and that was in the Smoky Mountains.”
Mark McCollough, an endangered species biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service says, “We’ve looked and looked….I can’t think of any other animal that has captured the imagination of the public the way that the Eastern cougar has.”
I Know What I Have Seen
The possibility of cougars in Tennessee also has captured my imagination. And with the following confession, I inevitably will be relegated to the attic for the eccentric (my children already know what I’m about to say, and am convinced I’m crazy) – I believe I have seen two cougars on my Maury County farm.
Yes, I know that people confuse bobcats with mountain lions. I have also seen bobcats on the farm; they aren’t common, but they are around. Whatever they are, the larger animals I’ve seen aren’t bobcats. I know what a bobcat looks like.
The other common explanation is that I’m confusing a tawny colored dog with a mountain lion. OK; maybe. I have never been close enough to take a photo. But what I saw sure moved low the ground and slinked along like a big cat.
Memory and Knowing
Memory and knowledge are funny, plastic things. We all are susceptible to manufacturing and altering memory. It is malleable. And as to knowing, ask a lawyer about eyewitness testimony. People who witness the same occurrence often give wildly different reports of what happened.
And there is no question I want to believe mountain lions may exist in middle Tennessee.
I like the idea that we don’t know everything. I like thinking the experts can be wrong. And I like thinking there is an element of the wild living close at hand.
Life in the Attic
To quote Popeye, who I watched on Saturday mornings as a child: “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.” Relegate crazy grandpa Rick to the attic: I know what I know, and that’s all that I know. I think. I’m pretty sure.
Share Your Stories
Share stories and memories like this one with friends and family through the Families Connect App. That is probably a much better forum. Shared this way, on the Families Connect Blog, the whole world can tell I’m nuts. Through the app, only those I invite will know.
Want to read more about mountain lions and their habitat? Check out this Falcon Pocket Guide on Amazon for additional reading.
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