Wisconsin’s Big Cats

Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 22nd, 2008

Dateline Milton, Wisconsin:

Kevin Edwardson has been trapping wild animals for years, but he wasn’t prepared for the creature that lunged at him from a hay mound in an abandoned barn last month.

It was a cat. A very big cat.

The Chicago Tribune publishes an article on mountain lions in the American hinterland, “Are big cats back on Midwestern prowl? More analysis is needed, but Wisconsin man’s story suggests eastward migration,” by Bob Secter, in their February 22, 2008 editions.

The news examination is a long one, gives the usual rundown on track finds and sightings. You can find it on the Chicago Tribune site.

Intriguingly, they mention the photographs we have lately been talking about here.

The Internet has proved a boon to the cougar-phobic, rapidly spreading rumors and hoaxes. Recently, state wildlife managers in Illinois took the unusual step of declaring that two widely circulated cyberspace claims involving cougars were specious.

One false rumor has Illinois officials deliberately releasing cougars to thin the deer herd. Another involves photos of a cougar purportedly poking into a cabin in southern Illinois. Officials have traced the photos to a site in Lander, Wyo.

Back in Milton, just north of Janesville, Wis., the cat story isn’t about rumors.

It began before dawn on the morning of Jan. 18 after a fresh snow. A farmer noticed unusual animal tracks in his driveway. They were more than three inches wide with no sign of claws. That ruled out a dog, which can’t retract its claws. Cats, on the other hand, do when on the prowl….

More here, Chicago Tribune, February 22, 2008.

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.

13 Responses to “Wisconsin’s Big Cats”

  1. kittenz responds:

    I think this is wonderful news.

  2. captainadam_21 responds:

    I fail to see how a population boom of large, dangerous cats wandering around farms is a wonderful thing. Once they realize it is easier to kill the farmer’s livestock, dog, and even the farmer himself than it is to actually hunt deer, things could get ugly.

  3. Endroren responds:

    This bit of info might be old news to some, but I was reading Little House in the Big Woods (which takes place in Wisconson) to my son the other day and there was a great story about “Grandpa and the Panther.” The most interesting part of the story was this:

    “Then grandpa caught a glimpse of it, as it was leaping from treetop to treetop, almost overhead.
    It was a huge black panther leaping through the air, like Black Susan leaping on a mouse.”

    Sounds like a melanistic big cat sighting to me! And from this article,it sounds like the cats might have returned to the “Big Woods”.

  4. mthood responds:

    I work in Milton, WI, and live not far away as well. There have been sightings off and on for many years, however the DNR never recognized them.

    I don’t think you would call it a population boom of big cats. Most of South Central Wisconsin is farm land broken up with small patches of woods, so there aren’t that many places for a large population of cats to exist.

  5. kittenz responds:

    It is a wonderful thing that pumas are repopulating their former range.

    The fact that ONE of them took temporary refuge in a barn does not change that.

    The cat leaped out of the barn, right past a surprised man, and did not even attempt to hurt the man; its only concern was ro get away.

    People may have to begin securing their livestock indoors at night, and closing their barn doors, but they should do that anyway.

  6. eireman responds:

    These sightings are nothing new. Ever since early settlers hunted cougars, pushing them farther west, sightings periodically crop up. It stands to reason, they’re not extinct and all of North America was once their range. But I think the increase in recent years could be traced to the population boom in the west, especially along the Front Range. It could be that as they were once forced westward, that now they are once more being forced out of their habitats. In essence, they’ve nowhere left to run. In time, I think wildlife officials will be forced to recognize their return to eastern haunts. A recent documentary illustrated how rangers working in an Arizona refuge for years still had never caught a glimpse of these elusive cats. They’re shy, well-camoflauged, and rarely move about in the day. Makes for the perfect recipe to hide from man, right?

  7. dle responds:

    I lived in the Los Gatos (“The Cats”), CA, area during the Internet boom. The town was part of Silicon Valley, a mix of hilly wilds and large suburbs.

    During that time, at least two people were killed and a couple more badly injured by a cougar roaming the area. The cat was discovered to be purposefully stalking people. It was eventually shot and killed. Big cats have persisted in the area, though.

    While cougars have their place in God’s created world, they do not mix well with people, especially today. I know I would fear for the safety of my family should cougars continue to press back into densely populated areas.

  8. sschaper responds:

    I don’t doubt that they are back. It is general knowledge that a cougar has been denning somewhere in the Mankato, Minnesota area for some years, no doubt she’d had kittens and they’ve grown up. And of course there is that wolverine caught on security camera in Zumbrota a couple of years back. And this whole area is prairie, especially out towards Mankato, not forest. Wisconsin has a lot of forest in the north, and naturally cats will expand outward when they get old enough not to be tolerated in their mother’s territory.

    I have to agree, cougars kill people and livestock. Free range animals aren’t feasibly put indoors every night. And the human casualties, such as they’ve had in California and Boulder, Colorado as the cats expand their range, well, let’s just say that I’m not a misanthropist.

  9. crgintx responds:

    DLE, the cougar wasn’t pressing into human territory, humans are pressing into its territory. Population growth throughout the Western states is pressing into areas that were wilderness just 10-15 years ago. Clear cut logging and other forms of human land use has greatly reduced the feeding grounds of deer, the cougar’s favorite meal. Young male cougars and older cougars no longer in there prime are forced into areas with marginal game aka civilization. Even large dogs are easy pickings for the cougar who can take down game as large as adult elk, 5 times its size. As I recall from the cougar attacks in Cali, the cougar that killed those folks was a young male. My $.02.

  10. captainadam_21 responds:

    Kittenz, your knowledge of ranching is laughable. Just the idea of someone rounding up hundreds of cattle every night to place them in a barn (which would have to be the size of a city block or larger) from a pasture the may be miles and miles away from the barn is impossible.
    But the idea of cougars making a comeback is a reality. A few years ago, in South Dakota there was the same rumor floating around that Game, Fish, and Parks was purposefully releasing cougars to thin out the deer herds.

  11. amstar responds:

    I live in Southeastern Manitoba near the Whiteshell Provincial Park (about an hours drive from where a man had photographed a cougar a year or two ago).

    Last December one of the neighbor’s dogs was mauled by a large animal and had the fur and skin ripped off its stomach. It survived, and at first the Vet’s only explanation was that it may have been attacked by a bear. Now, based on the examination of the claw marks at the time of the attack and on some recent cougar sightings in the area, the Vet feels a cougar was the culprit.

    Unfortunately, no matter how many times people in our area report a cougar sighting, the Wildlife authorities continue to poo-poo the idea that a cougar is prowling around our area. We live just to the west of the entrance to a vast wilderness area and it does not seem out of the ordinary that the big cat may travel looking for food.

    Unfortunately, like Sasquatch, no one believes it until there is photographic proof– or else someone or some animal gets killed! Cougars are out there and anyone living in a rural area must take precautions.

  12. squatch-toba responds:

    Hi amstar!!! You are completly right in what you say. There was a supposed sighting of a cougar in Charleswood ( a ‘burb of Winnipeg) not long ago. I think the bottom line is that cougars have always been here. It’s just a matter of them becoming more common because of the boom in deer numbers. I have seen cougar tracks in the Sandilands Prov. forest, and also in the area around Stead Mb. And yes, just like Sasquatch, the “powers that be” close their minds and shake their heads when a witness comes forward. By the way amstar ,you can get a great book called Manitoba’s Big Cats; The story of cougars in Manitoba. It was available at the Mb. Museum in Wpg., but can be ordered through book stores I’m sure!

  13. kittenz responds:


    I don’t recall having said anything about “ranching”; perhaps you should actually read my post before you cast stones.

    Most people who have livestock do not have such large-scale operations. Those who do, have to accept occasional predation as part of the cost of doing business. Problem individuals of predator species can be eliminated on a case-by-case basis. Other possible deterrents to predators, such as livestock-guardian dogs, are being used by some ranchers with a lot of success.

    Pumas are part of the natural balance of predator & prey. Irresponsible ranching and misguided predator-elimination programs have done much to disrupt that balance.

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