I was gone from our area for several years and I couldn’t wait to get back. I dreamed every day of returning to the hardwood forests and the land of trout streams. I would have never come back if I would have known what was going to happen to this region over the next few years. But, that is a different story. I got settled in, joined a local hunting lease and landed a night job so that I would still be able to hit the woods and streams. The first winter I was here they started clear cutting on the lease. I never bothered to go look at it until one hot summer day when there was nothing better to do.
August 19, 1999: Yep, I even wrote it down! My turkey dog Bonnie Blue and I rode up on the lease to look at the new clear-cut. We were riding up the hollow and the first thing I noticed was the way the deer were acting. They were really spooky; which was odd for that time of the year. Nervous would probably be the proper description. I came into the lower end of the clear-cut. The main road went straight through and there was a house sized boulder on the left side of the road. A second road split from the main road about fifty yards from the edge of the clear-cut. This road went between the house sized boulder and a smaller normal sized big rock. It was 2:20pm on s bright sunny day and 80 yards away, sitting on top of the big rock was a full-fledged mountain lion; plain as day in the wide open. Yep, there it was.
The cougar jumped off the rock; 3 feet of tail trailing behind and ran downhill through the very sparse vegetation. We watched it cross the creek and head up the other side of the mountain. My dogs’ hair was standing straight up on her back as we walked towards the rock. We were about thirty feet from the rock and there was fresh scat in the middle of the road. The cat had made a futile attempt to cover it up in the rocky soil. There were claw marks all the way around in a circle. Each claw mark was the size of my ring finger. Definitely not something you would want to get clawed by. No wonder the deer were freaked out on that day.
I have always been one to form my own opinions based on my experiences. I know what I have seen and I still have a pretty good memory. I believe that if you go through life believing that there is no possible way that you might suddenly become face to face with a panther in the eastern mountains; that is entirely up to you. I personally do not care where it was born, either. I see things here every day that wasn’t born here. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. I was talking to someone about the subject just a couple of days ago. He said he’s been running these mountains for 30 years and has never seen or thought he had seen any cougar sign. I asked him if he had ever seen a Nelson’s Sparrow; he got the point.
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This is my article for the April 2015 Issue of Two-Lane Livin