Tuesday, January 31, 2006
WE AIN'T GOT NO STEENKIN' MOUNTAINS....
Many of you remember that I vacationed last summer with my sister's family at Weko Beach on Lake Michigan. It is a park and campground run by the city of Brigman. Very upscale, on the Riviera of America, and well, fairly urban. It adjoins Warren Dunes State Park. While camping there last summer, the campground was awakened about 2 am by this horrible. very loud, screechy, snarly, growl. It sounded like a large cat that couldn't decide if it wanted to mate with something or eat it. The noise was loud enough to cause me to almost fall of my cot, and sent our then 9 mos old Airedale, Kipper, into a bout of apoplectic barking, growling and snarling. I had assumed it was a bobcat, rare around here, but not unheard of. Then I watched the 11 o'clock news last night. Warren Dunes and Weko Beach are about to post cougar warnings all over the parks. These signs instruct you how to behave if confronted by a Mountain Lion. Which incidentally, is quite a bit different from how you would react to a bear. but, I digress.
Apparently, park rangers at the two parks have spotted cougar prints numerous times, and there have been a number of actual cougar sightings, the latest early yesterday morning. Apparently, a lady living across from the state park let her 170lb. Rottie out to relieve himself, only to find a Mountain Lion drinking from the goldfish pond in her backyard. The cat and the Rottie apparently had a several minute staredown before the cat decided that might be more dog than it really wanted to deal with. Discretion being the better part of valor, the Rottie accepted his moral victory without pressing matters further.
I spent some time on the web tonight, and as near as I can tell, up until a couple of years ago, the last confirmed Mountain Lion sighting in the lower peninsula was in the 1880's. But two summers ago, Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore posted cougar warnings like those about to go up at Warren Dunes. And last spring, Macomb county had a cougar that was hanging out around a local elementary school. Macomb county is the far northeast side of Detroit. Not exactly rural in nature.
More and more we see wildlife that used to be seen only in extremely rural areas right here in the city. About 7 years ago, I stepped outside late one night to have a smoke, just in time to watch a Lynx jump from the huge maple tree in the backyard, onto the garage roof, then disappear down the alley. I thought I was imagining things, but the next few days the police and the zoo got numerous calls wondering if the zoo was missing a cougar. Well, it wasn't big enough to be a cougar, and it was too big to be a bobcat, so my original impression turned out to be right, a lynx. It was spotted a number of more times before it disappeared from the scene. Thing is, until then, it had been over a century since a lynx sighting in our area.
Up until the early 70's, there had been no coyotes in the lower peninsula since before WWII. But a couple of hard winters drove some of them across the straits to the LP where they multiplied like rabbits. It is not uncommon to see coyotes in here in South Bend now. I see them on a fairly regular basis at the park along the river at Indiana University South Bend. Kipper will sometimes go nuts if we walk over there, and my friend Bob's big yellow Lab has had a couple of run ins with them. The coyotes have become so common that they are starting to show up on a regular basis as road kill along US 20.
It amazes me how adaptable some of these creatures are. I work downtown, and have to arrive at work very early (4:45 am). It is not uncommon to see a fox trotting down the alley, a rat or rabbit in it's mouth. Perfectly oblivious to the fact that it is a busy city, and he has no business living there. Apparently, somebody forgot to tell him that!
I have the feeling that as we destroy more and more of these creatures natural habitat, we will see more of them in major urban areas like this. I only hope we adapt as well to their presence as they apparently are to ours!
tj - I am amazed the cat backed down! It must've been a female, I doubt that a male would have.
As for the fight, I hate to sink to this level, but I woulda put $50 on the cat. :)
But this urbanization is a huge problem and it's an old one in places like Vancouver, where the city just keeps expanding and the wildlife is pushed out. Their natural foraging grounds get trampled on so they forage in human inhabited areas. It's absolutely terrible if you ask me, and there is absolutely no foresight on the part of the human race with regards to this. The end result is two-fold: the animals (bears, cougars, deer, coyotes, whatever) either get killed by wildlife officials, or relocated (more often than not killed), and secondly, the people start to perceive wildlife and nature as dangerous and they start to believe that these animals are scary, which desensitizes them to killing the animals and makes them less sympathetic to how their expansion affects the wildlife. It's a vicious circle, and probably won't get any better.
I agree with your assessment - animals are going to go where they find shelter and food. If we encroach on their habitat, we will encounter them. More people need to learn respect for wildlife.
We also have bears, coyotes and fox.
I'm surprised we have so much deer!
wc - you are right, they are beautiful.. my guess is they are migrating here because we have an over abundance of deer and coyotes, two of their favorite meals. And since coyotes thrive in urban areas, it makes sense the big cat's might wander close too.
laura - I agree completely with your assesment of Warren Dunes. Now iI can't wait to take Kipper back there and see if we can't spot a cat! Just makes what is just about perfect even more so!
sadie - nothing has ever awakened me quite like that cat did!
Not so much a problem in the winter because we keep the barn doors closed at night due to the weather but in the summer it's another situation.
It's simply too hot for the horses to shut the barn up and next thing you know we lost another puddy.
There are now some coyotes in the suburbs. A girl I work with has family in an unincorporated part of DuPage County, and there are coyotes there. I would be so scared if I had a run-in with one.
Your camping story reminds me of something that happened to me. I was at girl scout camp. We were staying in tents, but they had wooden floors, and cots. There were 3 people per tent. I woke up in the middle of the night when I felt a wet nose on my face. It was dark, so I coudn't see very well, but given that we were in the woods, me and the other two girls in my tent thought it was a wolf. We started screaming. Later we found out it was a very tame dog. He lived on a farm near the camp and got away. He was a very friendly dog, as we all got to meet him later, but it was scary at the time.
I saw a possom in my neighborhood once. And Tim saw chickens. It's always odd to see animals you don't expect.
Several areas have had problems after people have turned their pet cougars loose.
Cougars are beautiful animals, but they can be hazardous to your health!
that would be one ugly fight. One of the times I went hunting, almost hit a mountain lion with my car. I saw the thing close up and it was huge. Looked like it might have been 150 pounds.
Well, what are we doing about urban sprawl? As we tear away their habitats, of course they're gonna come into ours. But I think that's what you're getting at.
And they now have plaster casts of the cougar prints!
Look at the ivory-billed woodpecker. We saw the so-called-extinct birds once in the 1920's and a taxidermist decided to go shoot them because he wanted them for his collection. We have no respect for wildlife and we need to be stopped.