Within the past month, interest within the outdoors world in our state became focused on northeast Louisiana, Morehouse Parish in particular, because of a trail camera photo of a wild creature that has mesmerized the public, especially hunters.
The image on the camera depicted a cougar/panther/mountain lion/puma walking past a feeder one night in November. This image triggered comments on Facebook from several who have either heard a cougar, seen a cougar, have photos of a cougar or found cougar tracks.
I have a bit of history with these big cats. Although I have never seen one, I have evidence of one my dad who worked in predator control for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries way back in the 1940s. My dad received reports of a cougar in and around the Red Dirt National Wildlife Refuge south of Natchitoches, found tracks and attempted without success to trap the animal. He did, however, preserve for history a track from the cougar. He mixed and poured plaster of Paris into one of the animal’s tracks to make an imprint I inherited after Dad’s death.
Reports have been circulated over the years of sightings of cougars around Louisiana. I asked my Facebook friends to report to me their experiences with cougars so I could report to my readers/listeners. Following is a sample of comments I received:
My sister, Linda Dupree, sent me a grainy photo of a cougar-sized animal taken from a trail camera recently. The photo was not clear enough to validate the animal was indeed a cougar but her husband’s nephew reported the following…
“My son and I saw a cougar cross the road in broad daylight on the way home from church the week before (Linda’s) photo was taken. We were about 400 yards from where the photo was taken. I thought at first it was a bobcat until I saw the long tail.”
A nationally known cartoonist for Bass Master magazine is a friend who lives in Arkansas after growing up in north Louisiana.
“I was camped on a pipeline north of West Monroe in the early 1970s with my brother and two friends. I couldn’t sleep so I was sitting by the campfire blowing on a ‘wounded rabbit’ predator call. Suddenly there was a crashing sound and a scream in the woods in front of us. A flashlight revealed a cougar with its front paws on a small stump, looking directly at us. A shotgun blast sent the cat away. I moved to Arkansas soon after and was sent a newspaper clipping of a deer hunter with a dead female cougar killed near the same area.”
Another friend volunteered the following edited report.
“I believe I saw one in Lincoln Parish on property near Liberty Hill road in McElroy bottom in January 1992-93. I used to squirrel hunt there and was hunting on a windy day. I saw an animal the size and color of a golden retriever trotting through the woods 80-90 yards away. I thought it was a dog and watched it going along when it hit me that the gait was all wrong, the head was too small and the torso was odd for a dog. I’ll never forget the chill that ran down my spine when I recognized the gait — it was trotting like a cat. At first I couldn’t believe what I was thinking and kept trying to ‘see’ a dog, but the more I watched, the more it looked like a big cat. Then it was gone. I went home and didn’t tell anyone because I was sure people would think I was imagining things.”
Those who have reported sightings are people I trust and have no reason to doubt their reports. I hope that one day while I’m sitting on a deer stand, one will step out into my shooting lane while I’m holding my camera and stop broadside so I can identify the long curving tail. Seventy five yards would be about right; don’t care about him being any closer.