Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Some Myths Never Die

Cats have nine lives is an old myth that never dies, and there are a number of other cat myths that never die. Here’s one that deals with a cat much larger than a house cat –

Recently, an acquaintance pulled out his smart phone to show me a photograph he’d gotten on Facebook of a large mountain lion that had reportedly been killed near Altoona, Pennsylvania. Wondering why friends who would/should have known more about this hadn't contacted me, it was time for some research.

There on the Pennsylvania news site, PennLive, was the same photo from a January 2014 article with a reference to a July 2008 article.

Interestingly, the same photograph appeared in February 2008 when the mountain lion was supposedly killed in Calhoun County, West Virginia.

This must have been a very well traveled mountain lion with at least nine lives since an account in Texas Hunt Works, with the same photograph, had it reportedly hit by a vehicle and killed in Stonewall County, Texas.
Other reports (some with the same photograph) had the same mountain lion killed in Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, both North and South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and several Canadian provinces. Wow! That’s more than nine lives.

A bit more research revealed what was apparently the true story in the Williams News from Williams, Arizona It seems that the mountain lion was struck, but not killed by a vehicle and then euthanized by an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer. There was even another photograph of the same animal and the same man, this time the man was in uniform –


Mountain lion myths abound, including one that Pennsylvania’s wildlife agency traded (with the state of your choice) wild turkeys for mountain lions (or coyotes – it depends on the teller of the tale). A few weeks ago this tale was presented to me as a true account –

Supposedly, a Pennsylvania state trooper was checking large trucks when he thought one manifest looked suspicious and thought he heard something moving around in the back. The trooper finally convinced the reluctant driver to open the back and found the truck loaded with mountain lions that were to be released in the state. I was too busy trying not to snicker to ask whether the big cats were in cages or loose in the truck.

So, if someone shows you a photo of a large dead mountain lion it might just be this cat of many lives –


Captive mountain lions that are kept as “pets” get big and feisty, causing them be released; young males in western states dispersing to find a territory or mate can wander long distances, as did one born in South Dakota that turned up in Connecticut after being caught by camera traps during its journey. So, it may be possible, if very unlikely, that a mountain lion occasionally roams Penns Woods - but it wasn't the one "killed near Altoona".  


Andrew Bradshaw said...

I saw that Illinois photo. I know that mountain lions do occasionally roam into Illinois, but this is the first I've heard of this photo being a fake. Thanks for the explanation.

Willard said...

An excellent post. I heard a variation on the one about the state trooper several years ago from a gentleman in elk country. In this case he already had the truck stopped and pulled over a passing motorist and said, "come with me" and then he showed him a stock trailer full of mountain lions. He also showed the motorist the shipping bill which said they were for release in Pa by the PGC. Needless to say I didn't believe this and still chuckle about it at times to this day. It inspired me to tell some of my co-workers something to the effect of, "well I'm a gonna turn out a tractor trailer load of coyotes tonight--got a big one comin' in", but of course it was a joke and I never told it to anyone that might possibly believe it.

On a serious note, in all of my years with the PGC I never personally saw coyotes or mountain lions being released by the agency, nor did I ever talk to a fellow employee who seriously claimed that they had done so.