Cougar Town

Anytime you hear what sounds like a woman screaming in your front yard, it can be a little disconcerting.

Knowing what you’re hearing though, makes the difference in whether you grab the phone to call the police, or grab the camera.

I didn’t have a chance to grab the camera the other night when the noise woke Emma, our German Shepherd/Rot mix, and I up at Our Little House.

I thought at first it was part of a dream until I heard Emma barking and I knew she had heard the screeching too.

Although still a little startling, especially during the night, we’ve been told by locals the noise we hear is a wild cougar that has taken up residence in these mountains near our house.

That would make our little compound here more of a Cougar Town than Campbell Town.

The first time I heard it, I was walking from the Belle Writer’s Studio back to Our Little House during a break from work and heard it on the lakeshore. Thinking someone must be hurt down there, I called my aunt, who could hear the noise as well. She thought it was some sort of animal, but didn’t know what.

Soon after, Dale and I went canoeing on the Buffalo National River and our guide who took us to our drop off point started talking about all of the wild animals in these woods. “Have you heard the woman screaming yet?” he asked. When I nodded, he said, “Well, you’ve heard a cougar.”
He said officials deny we have them, but like many things it’s the locals who know these mountains better. We know we have Bobcats, as Dale has even seen one of those.

Cougars, also called Mountain Lions and Panthers, are native to Florida and larger than a Bobcat.

A little Internet research indicates one was killed as far north as Omaha. I also verified wildlife officials acknowledge they’re here, they just believe that they’re pets that have been set free.

Pet or no, I know what I’ve heard now on at least three occasions. There’s no sound like it.

I can’t wait until we are able to set up a night vision webcam in the woods so we can finally have pictures to go with the sound.

Armadillos are also migrating north, do you know of any other animal that’s been reported in your area that is on the move? I know I have some wildlife experts out there, do you think cougars are in Arkansas?

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30 Responses

  1. Courtney cox is the sexiest cougar that i have ever seen he he “.*

  2. Wow!

    This reminds me of the scene in Little House in the Big Woods when Pa is followed home by a … panther? It’s very dramatic. 🙂

  3. Mo says:

    The problem with relocation is that the area the critter is relocated to is already supporting as many of that particular kind of critter already which is probably the reason the critter being relocated was where it wasn’t welcome in the first place. Didn’t we all learn about “carrying capacity” in High School Biology?

    Reminds me of the folks that dump their pets out here thinking one of the farms will adopt them… I guess the fantasy is something they can justify it in their conscience when the reality is far more cruel.

    • Normally I would agree with that, Mo, in the case of bears or deer or other wildlife that have strong numbers. But the cougar, if as rare as the conservation departments in each state say it is – if they even acknowledge their existence – should still have some areas in which they can be released back into the wild. There’s evidence the big cats are migrating, both from up north in Canada to the south and from the south in Florida, Texas and Louisiana, to the north. These cougars in NE may have simply been following a migratory pattern and gotten too close to “civilization” in the process. And I say that with quotations because the more I listen to the news, the less I think there’s anything civilized about us.

  4. Phillis Godwin says:

    Get me the city, city, city, with closed in spaces all around me. I am scared to death of wild animals. Always carry a weapon Perferrably a gun…………. Love

  5. Becky says:

    They are also called puma. We had 2 at a zoo I worked at in Georgia and you have never heard anything until you have heard them purr! They almost always purred when we fed them and it was beautiful. They really sound scary when they’re not purring though!

  6. MarthaandMe says:

    Yikes! Sounds kind of scary, but also nice that they are alive and well.

  7. Frugal Kiwi says:

    Nothing like hearing a “painter” to give you the willies.

  8. V Schoenwald says:

    We have had cougar sitings and several kills inclucing a kill up a little ways from me here in North Platte NE. It was around Lexington, and also around Broken Bow, which is in the Sandhills area we have to the north of the state. It was around a grade school, and it was shot because of the kids. It was a young one that was wandering around, but it was not a good place to wander, so we do have them and I am 300+ miles west of Omaha on 80.
    We have Bobcat, also, especially south of us in the canyons.

    • That makes me so sad, V. I understand the dangers of wild animals wandering in populated areas, but you would think the greatest country in the world could tranquilize and move an animal just as easy as killing one.

      • V Schoenwald says:

        This seems to be the answer to the problem. That is the way the state works. I would of rather seen that it was moved to the WildCat Hills up around Scottsbluff Ne, where there is elk and pronghorn populations, and it is more to the enviroment that the cats are used to.
        I really do not have answers to the problems, I find that sometimes its too much. Like your last post on too much information and shut the tv and news off.

  9. Alexandra says:

    Fascinating! Be careful! I know the ticks are migrating north. Ugh! Also, we have Baltimore orioles on Cape Cod now, unheard of until a couple years ago.

  10. Kathleen Winn says:

    When we purchased our land in Cass County, Missouri, and started meeting the locals, we heard lots of stories about mountain lions being in the woods. In fact, it seemed just about everyone we met had either seen one, or their brother or cousin had. I became very skeptical of these stories, since I checked with the Conservation Dept (which actually has a special mountain lion task force to check out sightings) and they were only able to verify seven sightings over a ten year period. I think in our area, lots of people are seeing bobcats (they also scream- we’ve heard them at night and it’s chilling!)and mistaking them for cougars. Seeing a cougar also makes for a much more exciting tale than seeing a bobcat. The first time we saw a bobcat in our woods, we realized just how easy it would be to mistake it for a cougar- they are larger than I imagined them to be, and unless you get a view of the back and can see the short tail, look very similar. I could see that in the wilds of the Ozark Mountains, cougars might take up residence, but here in Missouri I think there are a lot of people with overactive imaginations. Still- when I hear that bone chilling scream in the night, it sends a shiver down my spine and I have to wonder if one of the big cats is creeping around in our woods!

    • While it is good to be skeptical and not believe everything you hear from the locals, Kathleen, I’ve come to believe that the locals who actually live in the country are much more knowledgeable than most who work for the conservation departments. While I would be dubious of “transplants” from the city about what they’ve seen (I actually had a guy tell me once that an elusive woodpecker was on his property no less – and every scientist in the world was looking for this bird in the swamps further south), I find the locals do usually know what they’re seeing and hearing. I’ve listened to a Bobcat, as well as a Cougar scream on online recordings and the bobcat is actually much deeper than a cougars, and it was more of this high pitched screaming I’ve heard. When I was doing research, I did find reported sightings in Kansas and Missouri and this LJW article that a cougar was killed on a MO highway: http://www.ljworld.com/section/mountain_lions
      If they’re as far north as Omaha (whether coming down from the north, or coming up from the south), I do believe they’re in the landscape.

      • Kathleen Winn says:

        I do remember when that Cougar was killed. They actually mounted it and it now is on display at the Discovery Center, K.C.’s urban Conservation Center. They believe he may have wandered from as far away as Montana. However, if there were as many cougars in our area as there are stories about them, they’d be as common as whitetail deer. It’s possible that a few of them are here, but I believe it’s probably very few, or there would be more evidence than hearing screams and catching fleeting glimpses. Friends of ours actually set up a remote camera in their woods, convinced that they would get a photo of a mountain lion. They did get get a great photo of wild turkey, and some of deer and good shots of their two dogs, but no mountain lion. My brother’s wife who also lives near our property, was convinced she saw a mountain lion crossing a field on their land. She called the conservation department and they came to check it out, but showed her that the tracks were actually those of a dog. They told her that you can look at the footprint and see if there are the marks of claws in the print. If there are claw marks, it’s a dog, since cats retract their claws when they’re walking. Despite that, my sister-in-law still insists it was a mountain lion. However, I know that there are lots of idiots who think getting a baby cougar (illegally of course) is a good idea until it becomes a 200 lb. lion. What do you do at that point but set it loose somewhere? I look forward to living out there. Maybe I’ll actually see one and have to stop doubting all the stories!

        • You can also set up a camera of your own, Kathleen!

        • Tami says:

          Kathleen,
          Being born and raised in WA (transplanted to TN, back to WA and hopefully back to TN) we have cougar here. A lot of cougar. My husband and I are campers (not state park campers) and hikers. My husband is also a hunter. I’ve lived in the country most of my life. Dispite all of that, I have yet to see a live cougar. They are here though. Animals can be very elusive.

  11. Kim says:

    That is SUCH a bloodcurdling sound. As a kid I met a wildlife person (state employee? conservationist?) who had permission to raise injured wildlife, and he/she had a cougar. It was absolutely gorgeous– and so powerful and muscular, even as a half-grown adolescent.

    I have a great vintage postcard of a Eureka Springs “native” with a bobcat he’s killed hanging from his arm. If you’d like, I’ll scan it and send you a copy. 🙂

    • Very cool you’ve seen one up close, Kim! Thanks for the offer of the photo, but I really don’t like photos of dead animals (can’t stand all those horrible hunting trophy photos the newspaper publishes each year)!

  12. Oh, yes, Mary. Our dogs spent the first few months we were living here on the hunt for armadillos. Although they haven’t brought one home for awhile, the roadkill on the sides of the streets in town indicate they’re here in droves. I also read a report not long ago that they’re as far north as Lawrence now.
    Never heard of a ring tail cat. As for the cougars, officials say the Arkansas cougars were killed off in the 1920s. However, they got here, by dumping or by roaming north from Florida, I know they’re here too!

  13. I know armadillos are here for I spent an hour taking photos of one in our yard. They claim the ring-tail cat is on the move, first spotted in Fort Smith as road kill.

    The sound of cougars on a hunt and the screaming sound when making the kill; I have hear it all and seen the kills on the ranch in Idaho and the mountains of Oregon. Yes, I believe Arkansas has them.