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Monday, November 19, 2012

Running through a Furrow

We received this letter from a resident of Auburn, Michigan. 

Dear recipient:

I just read an article in the Bay City Times about "Cougars Amoung Us" by John Flesher of the Associated Press, dated 11-4-01.  In the issue of "Michigan Out-of-Doors" that I just received today I read another article, "Lions on the Beach?" written by the editor, Dennis Knickerbocker.

To make certain that history is properly recorded, I contacted John Flesher about an actual physical encounter with a cougar that I had in western Bay County about 49 years ago.  I am contacting you for the same reason.

Mine is a true story if you are interested.  I will give some of the key elements of the enocunter.  The incident occurred on our farm which was located 0.9 miles north of Fisherville (which is in Bay County between Bay City and Midland).  My dad had a sawmill and had cut some large trees down in our small woodlot in preparation for sawing into lumber.  Some of these trees had fallen into a field which had been planted into sweet clover and alfalfa to be powed under for green fertilizer.  This was a very thick level of vegetation with the sweet clover about four to five feet high when my Dad started plowing.  I happened to be walking from our house to our barn when I saw my Dad waving me to come to the field.  He had just started plowing near the woodlot and had a swath about forty feet wide when I reached the north end of this swath.  He was approaching me from the south with the Farmall H and double bottom plow so I walked up the soft earth in his last furrow on the east side of the swath.  With the noise of the approaching tractor, and me walking in the bottom of the furrow with the soft black dirt, I didn't make any noise.  As my Dad and I got closer together I noticed something on my left moving slowly toward the plowed swath.  It moved the clover for a length at least four feet.  I had no idea what it was but for some reason I decided to run up the furrow and jump on the patch of moving clover as this approached the furrow.  I leaped as high as I could and landed directly on the patch of moving clover (it was too thick to see what was moving).  When I landed with both feet on the moving object I heard the most vicious snarling and hissing that I have heard in my life.  I leaped back into the air as fast as I landed.  My landing was several feet into the clover and when the animal got up and ran across the plowed ground I was totally shocked.  This was an actual cougar, mountain lion or puma as some call it.  It was in full view of the forty feet that it ran across the plowed ground and another hundred feet or so that it ran along the north side of our woodlot.  It was obviously injured because its body sagged a little and didn't run at what I believe should have been full speed.  I suspect that I broke some ribs or at least knocked most of the wind out of it.  If it had heard me coming I think that the outcome of the incident could have been much more serious.  After my dad stopped to talk to me about the incident he related why he motioned for me to come to the field.  He had not seen the cougar earlier.  What he did see was several large, approximately two foot diameter holes, around one large felled oak tree which he showed me.  There also was a large amount of dirt spread in a pile around each hole.  If I had known that there was a den of a large animals so close to me I certainly would not have jumped on the animal.

I know there are many references to the extinction of the cougar in Michigan in the late 1800's and early 1900's, but I can assure you that at least one still existed in Michigan as late as about 1952.

I thought that I would share this first-hand account. 

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