Now that the Summer of the Bear is winding down, it seems jealous mountain lions are making a bid to claim the fall spotlight. Rather than rack up incident after steady incident, bear-style, it looks like they're going for an all-out media blitz. To wit:
- Ever since cops cornered and shot a cougar in a Chicago neighborhood back in April, cougar sightings are reaching record numbers in both Chicago and Illinois. At one point, Cook County animal control agents had to field an average of 18 sightings a day. While no physical evidence of subsequent mountain lion activity has been found since the cat shooting, officials won't rule out the possibility that they're around. "I am retired, but I don't have time to fabricate stories," said one man who saw two cougars crossing a road together in semi-rural Wonder Lake. "I may be old, but I'm not blind."
- Mountain lions haven't existed in Michigan since 1906, but recent mysterious horse maulings and a warning from the National Park Service lend credence to the idea that a small population might live near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. A 900-pound horse was mauled near Sleeping Bear Dunes, and while Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials denied that the attack came from a cougar, the vet who treated the horse, the owner, and the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy are certain that the large gashes and claw marks couldn't come from any other animal. Meanwhile, the NPS posted warning signs at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore warning visitors to beware after a volunteer claimed to have been stalked by a big cat.
- Last week, a grandmother in Northern California awoke to the screaming of her cat from beneath her bed and what appeared to be a large dog trying to get at it. "I was half asleep and first I though it was a big dog, trying to get under the bed, and I whacked him on the rear end, like, 'You're not getting my baby,' " (Jane) Chanteau said. The offending animal turned out to be a 4-foot-long mountain lion who'd broken into the house through a glass door hoping to make a meal of the family pet. After wandering around confused for a few minutes, the cougar made its way out of the house and dashed away into the nearby woods. Bearli the cat survived with a minor puncture wound and likely severe mental trauma.
Not a bad media coup for the cougar initiative, I'd say. But to ensure their continued visibility in Michigan, they should probably get caught in the act of killing a horse. Otherwise, they're just asking for some conspiracy theorist to come in and steal their thunder by inventing the "Chupacaballo.*"