Saturday, February 13, 2010

I am not crazy. I really saw one.

It goes by many names: cougar, mountain lion, puma, panther. Whatever the hell you want to call it, I saw one on my property today.

According to Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the last confirmed mountain lion in Alabama was killed over 60 years ago. "At present, reports of sightings in Alabama are relatively common, but these probably are released captives or cases of mistaken identity."

I don't know where they keep captive mountain lions around here (around 30 game breeders in the state have licenses to keep them) or why they would release one but, trust me, there is no way I saw anything but a mountain lion.

I was sitting at the computer when I glanced out the window. I saw something in the woods and grabbed the binoculars to get a better look. I often use the binoculars to spy on the chickens and goats from inside the house.

I scanned through the trees until I found what I was looking for. I thought perhaps it was one of the goats or maybe even a big dog. As I messed with the focus I clearly saw the unmistakable sight of a long tail swishing behind it. It could be nothing but a cat. A big-ass cat. While I have a horde of domestic cats on the property, there was no way this was one of them. I can't even imagine having noticed one of them 200 yards away in the woods by just glancing out the window. I probably wouldn't have even noticed this big-ass cat if it hadn't been silhouetted against the three inches of fresh snow we got yesterday. Nor was it a bobcat. Bobcats have short, stubby tails. This cat had a loooooong tail.

In retrospect, I should've looked a little harder at the details - not just the of the animal but its location as well. All I knew was it was close to the goat pasture, possibly even inside the fence. I grabbed the gun and ran down the hill. I was out the door within seconds of spotting it through the binoculars.
That's how sure I was.

I walked the perimeter of the goat fence, searching for the mountain lion or it's tracks, finding neither. But I did notice that the baby goat was nowhere to be seen. After walking all the way around the goat fence, I went into the pasture through the gate. All the other goats were on the opposite end of the enclosure and I hoped they'd stay there since my billy goat, Preacher, can sometimes be a bit hostile unless I bring food to distract him.

I was headed to the wooded section of the enclosure but stopped by the shed that the goats use for shelter. It was there I saw the baby goat, laying dead on the dirt floor. He was not killed by a predator. I'm not even sure what killed him. He'd been healthy when I saw him the day before. But there he was, laid out flat on the ground.

If I was to guess, I'd say he perhaps got squashed by the other goats during the night. A guy I know who raises goats had recently told me about how it happened to one of his baby goats last year. During the course of the night, the goats were probably huddled together to keep warm and the little baby got smashed under the pile.

At that point, I forgot about my hunt for the mountain lion and focused on getting the little dead goat out of there. By the time I thought about going back into the woods to look for signs of the big-ass cat, I realized any tracks would be unrecognizable in the rapidly melting snow (it was sunny and 50 degrees).

Perhaps tomorrow morning I'll take a walk in the woods and see if I can spot any fresh tracks. I really hope that I don't find them.

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