Archive for July, 2015

(Not a Milwaukee lion) By K Fink (NPS) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The past week’s sightings of one, possibly two mountain lions in the city of Milwaukee have captured the media limelight across the nation. The Milwaukee Lion or Lions (as one witness claimed to have seen two) have been skulking around Milwaukee’s north side, giving police the slip after allegedly ripping the head off a house cat and prowling in people’s back yards.

I’m not surprised; mountain lions have been sighted all over Wisconsin in the past few decades–long after they were supposed to have been eradicated in this state–including my own neighborhood eight miles north of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, just two years ago, when my husband was nearly attacked by one in our back yard! He had walked outside after dark and ended up walking backwards back to the house, yelling and waving his arms and kicking at the animal which was only a few feet away from him. Luckily it ran back in the woods when he reached the house. He also saw it at close distance the next morning, and so did two neighbors on different ends of the street. None of them reported it.

Also, A person I know whose family farms east of Elkhorn told me that a another family member observed two mountain lions checking out their livestock this past spring. They didn’t report it. I also saw many dozens, perhaps hundreds, of wht looked like fresh mountain lion prints (5 inches, no claw marks, correct shape) in the snow on a path I was hiking with friends in the northern part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit, this past February. It was not a long hike!

Godfrey measuring possible cougar prints in Kettle Moraine Feb. 2015

Godfrey measuring possible cougar prints in Kettle Moraine Feb. 2015

Nor is this the first time one has been reported in the greater Milwaukee area. The Waukesha Freeman ran an article by Kollin Kosmicki in its Good Morning Today section July 13, 2005 titled, “Is There a Mountain Lion in Waukesha?”  The sighting had been made June 1, 2005, by Phil Buteyn in Minooka Park, only 30 yards from the path he walked with his grand daughter. Buteyn, a retired school teacher, was adamant that he identified the animal correctly, having seen it from a relatively short distance in good, daylight conditions. Kosmicki said Local DNR warden Kyle Drake noted there was also a sighting reported in Pewaukee in fall, 2004.

Many will remember the cougar shot in Chicago’s Roscoe Village area in mid-April, 2008. That animal was traced through DNA evidence back to Wisconsin and specifically southeastern Wisconsin, including the area north of Elkhorn in Walworth County. Another was killed in Morrison, Illinois on Nov. 26, 2013, 130 miles west of Chicago. Both cougars were thought by most wildlife authorities to have migrated from the Black Hills area, looking for mates and new territory. I think it’s very possible the present Milwaukee sightings hail from that same source, although it’s also very possible it was an escaped, illegal pet. It’s been about ten years since a Wisconsin State Patrol officer told me he stopped a car whose driver was transporting three cougar cubs in the back seat!

I do have a huge file on cougar sightings elsewhere in the state–a stunning amount of them–within the past several decades. I’m in the final week before the deadline for my next book or I’d be compiling them all here right now, but I promise they are next. That’s why I added “Part One” to my title here. I believe cougars are not as rare in Wisconsin as people think, but they are under-reported. And in the meantime, I’m waiting along with everyone else to find out what happens in Milwaukee. Judging by what’s happened in Illinois, it may not be pretty.

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A few days ago I received the following report from an Oklahoma family. The father and his 12-year old daughter, Nu, had a daylight sighting of what they thought looked like a pterasaur, and each of them drew a sketch of what they saw. The dad wrote the following description:
 “My daughter and I saw a featherless bird without a tail on Saturday 09/27/2014 between 10 am to 10:15 am. The sighting was about 3-4 seconds. I spotted the creature first and told my daughter “hey what’s that.” She caught 3 seconds or so of it. My daughter knows birds and she can tell you about birds in good detail. She told me that the bluejays were sounding an alarm call at the time.
It was a clear beautiful day. Maybe a few fluffy clouds here and there.There was no flapping and it flew (glided) from SE to NW towards the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge.  It looked black or dark brown. It had no tail but the feet were behind and I thought you could see toes or knuckles pointing up. If you put both of your hands like open fists straight behind your back – that would be like it.  The feet were in line with the wings from my angle.
I did not get a good look at the head and so I am not sure if it had an appendage or bump on the back but it gave me the impression it had some thing but it was not obvious.  It seemed big – between 6 – 8 ft maybe. It wasn’t a hawk or a vulture. I would say it was 2 1/2 times bigger than a adult vulture.  It was about 60 Feet away. If you look straight ahead and lift up your right arm and raise it above your vision (where you can no longer see it without moving you head)  that would be the angle.
We live near lake Overholser in Oklahoma City. We are located just west of 23rd and Council.”
Nu’s mom, Maggie, added the following:
“My daughter and husband said it was close enough to tell it had no feathers, The most surprising thing was there was no tail!  We have hawks outside and turkey vultures and they come in low sometimes and you can see the 2 tone feature patterns. Even far away the feathers are clear.This thing they said had no tail, no feathers and was structured differently from other flying animals. My daughter says it did not look like a bat as they are here as well.”
I thought they did a very good job with the descriptions, especially with the sketches, and thank them for coming forth with their sighting.


This one is a shot I took of the pterosaur reconstruction at Chicago's Field Museum. There are many known varieties of the order Pterosauria, which lived during the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods.

This one is a shot I took of the pterosaur reconstruction at Chicago’s Field Museum. There are many known varieties of the order Pterosauria, which lived during the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods.

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