Recently I was recounting for the umpteenth time how, on a warm night that necessitated an open bedroom window, I heard a scream that made my hair stand on end. It sounded human--like somebody being murdered, and that's no exaggeration--but two or three more screams showed whatever it was to be moving away. I didn't know what it was, but my heart was pounding, and it was hard to get back to sleep. (I first wrote about it here--scroll down.)
Hannah was part of the conversation--well, okay, it was more like a monologue on my part, so she was part of the audience--and after she got home from a visit to our place, she sent me some links to news articles that made me think I may actually have heard a large cat, possibly a cougar (also known as puma, mountain lion, catamount, and panther).
There's a lot of controversy about cougars in Michigan, with the Department of Natural Resources taking the stand that any cougars in the state are likely escaped pets, while many Michiganders swear they've seen the big cats--too many sightings to be merely escaped pets. Some people accuse the DNR of refusing to look for the cats because, as an endangered species in the state, resources would have to be devoted to this animal. The DNR maintains that it has not seen a corpse nor evidence of any breeding cougars; some residents have stated that they have indeed seen kittens.
One thing is certain: DNA analysis of scat and of hair and blood have proven the existence of some cougars in the state. But, as I said, the DNR believes that the only cougars in the state are illegally owned pets that have made their getaway.
But there are plenty of reported sightings. Last February,
That was made plain Thursday at a Senate Agriculture and Bioeconomy Committee hearing called by chairman Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Muskegon.
He wants to know why the Department of Natural Resources won't acknowledge that there seems to be a breeding population of cougars, and why the agency won't live up to its mandate under the state Endangered Species Act to study and try to protect them.
* * * * *
After hearing from witnesses who ranged from scientists to veterinarians to regular folks, Van Woerkom said every member of his committee is convinced that these people didn't see dogs or house cats but saw real cougars that in some cases had to be breeding.
"When reliable people tell you they saw a cougar with kittens, that's pretty good evidence," Van Woerkom said. "I've been bringing this up with the DNR for three or four years and they just kind of blow it off, saying we have no physical evidence. But that's not true. We have physical evidence, and it looks like (cougars) stretch from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.
A few cougars, however, do not constitute a breeding population, and the DNR claims that no scientific evidence exists for that.
Both Michigan Citizens for Cougar Recognition and Save the Cougar.org list purported sightings, sightings of kittens, news items concerning cougars, and stories by those who say they have seen cougars.
I'm willing to believe that there is a breeding population of cougars, particularly a possibility in the Upper Peninsula, but some of the sightings/stories are probably bogus, too, knowing how easy it is for people to see what they want to see. (Also, when you read that what's been reported as a cougar sometimes turns out to be a coyote, it tends to make you agnostic on the issue.)
Could I have heard a cougar that night? This is similar to what I heard, although the animal was much, much closer than it sounds in the video:
On the other hand, I didn't know that foxes screamed, and we have our share of those, too:
I'm looking for a better quality audio clip for the cougar scream, which I'll post if and when I come across one. Meanwhile, I do think it's possible that I heard a cougar that night. Nothing else I've come across on the Internet seems like as good a match.