Mystery Animal in Iredell County

Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 6th, 2009

The Statesville Record and Landmark has the latest on new reports of what appear to be Mystery Felines in North Carolina.

A love of outdoor activities has led Dennis and Joan Carter across the country. They’ve seen animals of every stripe and size.

On Monday afternoon, while returning from a weekend camping jaunt at Kerr Scott Reservoir in Wilkes County, the couple was startled to the point of awe when a huge cat crossed in front their vehicle on N.C. Highway 115 in northern Iredell County.

“It was a cat, I’m sure of that,” Dennis said. “It didn’t look anything like a dog or coyote. It walked and moved like a cat, not like a dog.”

The couple said they spotted the animal on Wilkesboro Highway near Taylor Springs Road and Rupard Road. Dennis described it as being light gray in color and about 6 feet long, including “a long curled tail.”

The animal was traveling west direction with a “loping” gait until it reached the street.

“And then it took off,” Dennis said, “and jumped down into the creek.”

The question is: What did the Carters see?

Dennis swears it was a cougar or a big cat very similar to it.

But Tanya Cline, manager of the wildlife habitats at Grandfather Mountain, said such a thing “is extremely unlikely.”

As far as she knows, the only two cougars in western North Carolina — Nikata, a female, and Aspen, a male — are under her care at the habitat.

“They have been extirpated from this area,” she said, using a term synonymous with “local extinction” and meaning “no longer indigenous.”

In other words, cougars used to live in North Carolina but have moved on.

Also, Cline said, cougars (which, she said, are also known as mountain lions, panthers, pumas and upward of 100 other names) are brown or tan in color, not gray.

The Carters, who live just outside Statesville’s city limits, are firm about the color of the animal they saw.

So Cline is stumped. She said she has heard rumors of gray-colored cougars but knows of none that has ever been captured.

“One possibility,” she said, “is that this was an exotic pet someone had that the owners let go or that got away.”

Cline is not denying that the Carters saw a big cat and says there have been other sightings of cougars around the state.

“A lot of people claim to have seen them,” she said. “But the State of North Carolina says they’re not here.”

Greg Jenkins of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine agrees that if the Carters did see a cougar it is almost certainly one that had been in captivity.

“There are people in the state who have them,” he said. “And they do get away.”

Jenkins re-emphasized that the state’s official word on the matter is that there are no naturally wild cougars in the state.

“But they’re sexy,” Jenkins added. “And people want to see them. But they can also kill people.”
Whatever the Carters saw, they are concerned the animal may do damage to livestock.

Dennis said he contacted the Iredell County Animal Services & Control Department, which directed him to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

“It has to eat,” Carter said. “And it’s big enough to be really dangerous.”

Source: “Mystery animal roaming Iredell,” by Jim McNally, Statesville R&L, May 6, 2009>

🙂 Thank You.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

12 Responses to “Mystery Animal in Iredell County”

  1. Quakerhead responds:

    I wish that someone could find proof that these sightings are of a remnant population of the Eastern cougar and not fall back on “an escaped pet” all the time. Cougars are slowly making a comeback in north western Louisiana but these are quickly dismissed as “Texas” cougars that crossed over. Keep your fingers crossed though,because there’s more and more cougar sightings in eastern Louisiana and into parts of Mississippi and these are EAST of the Mississippi river. I know that cougars are good swimmers but crossing the Mississippi seems a bit unlikely with it’s treacherous current not to mention the great distance across.

  2. MayLady responds:

    I have no doubt they saw a cougar. My grandparents live about an hour into Virginia over the NC border, and cougars used to kill some of my grandpa’s calves every year. I’ve seen them, my whole family has seen them. Until a few years back, I didn’t know they WEREN’T supposed to be in VA/NC.
    I have a friend from Roanoke who swears he had school canceled for a few days when he was in elementary school because there was a cougar who kept coming near the playground. Anyone know of a way I could determine the validity of this?

  3. Brothermidnight responds:

    Well I’m from Iredell County and I can tell you that there are many more sightings happening in this and the surrounding county’s that dont make it to the papers. A lot people believe that the mountain lions are starting make a come back in this area .

  4. Matt_J responds:

    Well, my wife saw a cougar/panther/puma on our property about a month ago now. The following morning, we found a print. Upon close inspection of the print, I found some hairs and extracted them carefully (so as to not contaminate them with my DNA).

    I contacted the NC Wildlife Bureau about the story, and they never contacted me back. So, to hear them chime in with the old song-and-dance of “there’s no more cougars in North Carolina” doesn’t surprise me. It’s complete and utter bull, but it doesn’t surprise me.

    Further research into the matter revealed that in December, two people in Chapel Hill reported a sighting. August of 2007 a woman reported seeing a cougar near Jordan Lake eating a deer carcass. So, there is precedent. If they’ve moved this far east, and are hanging out this close to the Triangle, it would not shock me that they would be in Iredell County.

  5. cryptidsrus responds:

    I also find the “escaped zoo animal/pet/circus animal” routine a tad old.

    Deep down, I think authorities know “black panthers” and cougars exist in that area but don’t want to come out and say it. For a variety of reasons. One of them being the self-appointed “animal guardians” that would come out of nowhere to “protect” the beasts form the “evil, malevolent” hunters who might want to kill them. Also just general curiosity-seekers who might want to go out into the woods to catch a glimpse of these “rarities.” Nobody wants conflict in the area.

    Basically, I guess they feel it’s best to leave theese creatures well enough alone for a time and let them fully establish a population in the area.

  6. Ceroill responds:

    Heck, that was an old ‘chestnut’ in the days of Charles Fort. Sigh.

  7. ogopogoman64 responds:

    whoa, finally someone is looking at N.C. big cats, if it was grey, it could’ve been a cougar or mountain lion. As a resident of N.C., there are FOR SURE moutain lions/cougars in the mountains, AND, there are black panthers. Where i go camping near bentonville, there are black panthers because we’ve seen them and there footprints. Also, there is a legend called the Wompass Cat, said to be a huge cat the size of a lion, that lives in the woods of N.C., but i’m a little more skeptical on the Wompass Cat theory, but still glad someone saw a big cat here in NC

  8. kittenz responds:

    I have no doubt that there are a few “escaped pet” cougars (what the heck, I may as well call a cougar a cougar; referring to them as “pumas” all the time is getting tiresome, and the subspecies name of the eastern puma is, after all, Puma concolor cougar 😉 ) . I suspect that even more of the cougars that people are seeing are former captive animals that have been deliberately released because their owners abandoned them when they became too large or aggressive to manage, or when they realized that they were breaking a law by having the cougar.

    BUT I also feel certain that the eastern puma was never completely extirpated from the Appalachian mountains. They were systematically exterminated, and their habitat was all but destroyed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but I have no doubt that cougars have persisted all along in the laurel canyons and the more remote parts of the hills. There are parts of the Appalachians that are virtually inaccessible to humans, and with the past few decades the deer population has rebounded to the point that there are more deer than ever before.

    Almost certainly there are pumas also dispersing eastward from the western cougar population, and also some former captive cats are breeding with wild pumas. But the wild ones have been there all along – not very many of them, but their numbers are increasing. There is certainly enough prey and cover here in eastern Kentucky, and the mountains of western North Carolina are every bit as rugged and suitable for cougars. This whole region of the south-central Appalachians is perfect cougar habitat.

  9. garner919 responds:

    I live in North Carolina and my uncle hit one of these cats.
    The NC State & Wildlife Commission has a program in to release the cats into the state because they believe the cougar became extinct in the area at one point.
    After my uncle hit the cat he reported it and took pictures and it was indeed a cougar.ougar

  10. kittenz responds:

    That’s really intriguing, garner919. Do you have any of the photos? What came of his report? Did anyone investigate it or take evidence for DNA testing, etc?

  11. DWA responds:

    Several things.

    1. “Gray” is a really generic color. I wouldn’t dismiss something because the witness just said, gray. Color perception comes into this, big time, and natural cougar coloration is not so far from gray that no one would report it that way.

    2. Long curly tail says cougar to me.

    3. I think the Eastern cougar population could easily have reached a point beyond which hunters weren’t regularly encountering them anymore. When you don’t encounter them: you stop looking; you stop getting and training dogs to hunt them; you stop bothering. And when the deer get down there too, you just aren’t going where they go (or you quit hunting and move to town); and the “reliable” sightings dry up. And everything else just gets labeled “outlier, and thereby not likely”.

    4. The only way to deal with this that isn’t utter nonsense on the part of wildlife managers is: manage as if they are there.

    Common sense.

  12. Brian Keyes responds:

    I guarantee that the animal is a puma. They say that these animals are being seen in other places of the U.S. already. So why not in North Carolina.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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