New Big Cat Reports: The Black and the Tan
Here’s a tail of a black and a tan, one 7 miles from Bray Road a few days ago and one less than two weeks on the southern outskirts of Janesville…
On Saturday, September 7, 2019, 25-year old Harley Marcum and fellow employee Robert Davis were between shifts outside the back door of a south Janesville company about 6:30pm, when something caught Marcum’s eye; a dark animal moving swiftly from the parking lot toward a nearby marsh, on all fours and low to the ground. “Holy crap! Look!” Marcum yelled at Davis, not believing his own eyes. Robert looked where Marcum was pointing just in time to see a huge black-furred animal skulk off into the grassy, marsh area, its glossy coat reflecting the waning sunlight. There was no doubt in either of their minds, said Marcum: It was a mountain lion or some other type of big cat. (Click link for video of Marcum and Davis)
The two men exchanged startled glances, and then decided to run after the animal to see if they could scare it out for another look. A few steps into the field, however, they couldn’t see where it had gone and began to feel uneasy. They retreated to the parking lot, the edge of which was only about 20 feet from the marsh but didn’t catch another glimpse. They did tell a friend of theirs about it, and the friend contacted me. I met up with Marcum and Davis at their usual shift change time on Thursday, Sept. 19, where I looked around for prints and heard more of their story.
Where did the big cat go? Their employer’s location is in the general area east of Hwy. 51 on Janesville’s south side, but there are many open and wooded wild areas where the big cat could also easily rove. Male cougars need thirty-square-mile territories if they are planning to stay, and can cover many miles in a day if just passing through.
It Was a Beast
Both men described a rather formidable animal.
“It was weird,” said Harley, “like nothing I’ve ever seen. And I clearly seen it; it was bigger than a German shepherd.” In fact, it was larger, he said, than what he would expect a mountain lion to be. “I could see the muscles; it was slick black. It was a beast,” he said. “I had a side view of the head, and I saw a long tail that curled upward and then curled down.” That is a standard mountain lion description.
Harley also noted that it had what seemed a big head for the body, which, together with the black fur that zoologists say is never seen on a mountain lion, may indicate some other species of big cat or a hybrid. Harley said they did not report their sighting to the DNR or other officials. They are now alert at every shift change, hoping for the privilege of seeing such an unusual animal again. “I’m extremely grateful,” said Harley of his encounter.
Sighting #2: Tan Cougar seen East of Bray Road
An even more recent report came to me by phone the day after it occurred, September 15, 2019, from a location only about 7 miles from the NE tip of Bray Road. The caller and his wife own a summer home and acreage in eastern Walworth County. They had first contacted me in November, 2018, after they found roundish, “large baseball” sized prints on their land and learned that only a few miles away, a farmer had lost two calves to an unknown predator. He had five trail cameras positioned around his property for the remainder of the winter, but nothing turned up on any of them. He contacted the DNR but was told it must be either a dog or a deer. He knew it was neither of those.
When the property owner called me last week, it was to tell me that the previous day, his wife had seen what she was sure was a tan mountain lion, walking only about 60 feet away from her bedroom window. She also noted its large, looping tail. She had good light and a longer look at it than most people. The couple prefers to remain anonymous.
And just south of the WI-IL Border:
Area newspapers ran articles in August, 2019, about an 11 p.m. sighting on August 8 of a dark brown, large animal with bright eye-shine. A couple was driving near the village of Rockton, IL, traveling north on South Bluff Road next to the Rock River when this occurred. They described the typically flat-faced head profile of a big cat and also the tell-tale tail that appeared to be “curling under” as it crossed the road in front of their car. They insisted it was not any well-known or usual animal seen in that area.
Readers of my blog will know that I’m working on a documentary called Return to Wildcat Mountain about the surge of tan and black big cats in central Wisconsin west of the Baraboo area. Short versions will be shown at Iowa’s Van Meter Visitor Festival just west of Des Moines on September 28, and at the Charles Dickens Horror Festival in Colorado on October 19, 2019 for starters.
Note: For a fuller story of the Rockton, IL sighting, please see Singular Fortean’s story by Tobias Wayland.