Eastern cougar, panther, mountain lion, painter – ghost cat… All the names given to what many Virginians believe they have seen roaming various parts of the state. The discussions have been brought back to the forefronts of the internet this week when a man claims to have been attacked by a mountain lion in Virginia, along the Appalachian Trail 30 minutes from Humpback Rock.
The man was treated for his injuries, while investigators look deeper into the situation. As of now, there isn’t much on the internet other than the same stories of the attack. What’s disconcerting to VA Outdoors at this time, is the fact that investigators have looked at the man, and if there were bite marks etc. it should be easy enough to compare those to mountain lion, or bobcats. Either way – the story has gone dark, leading some to believe the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries is in the midst of another cover up, while others believe it was simply a bobcat.
Either way, these stories pop up, and ignite intense debate about the topic – yet, rarely, no additional information is made available. This not hard to understand given the current media/news cycles – sensationalism and then on to the next topic, with no regard for the final answer. It’s also not uncommon for the casual outdoorsman, or hiker, to confuse a large bobcat with what they thought they saw – both are elusive.
Personally – I have no interest in coming across mountain lions in Virginia – or anywhere else for that matter. Those that know me understand this. These are truly the apex predator in the United States. But they are elusive and solitary creatures. Some might even argue they are as elusive in Virginia as Bigfoot. People that I know and trust have talked about first-hand accounts with large cats believed to be mountain lions – people that I hold a deep respect for.
I believe the conditions are right for mountain lions in Virgina. Virginia has the right habitat and a strong deer population, along with other wild game. In addition, mountain lions have been killed in surrounding states, though the DNA tests prove they were offspring of captive bred cats. What this does show is that somehow, some way, cats are in the woods – regardless of whether these are fully wild animals or not.
Furthering the mystery regarding mountain lions in Virginia is the sheer number of hunters in the woods. With all the hunters in the woods, how come no one has shot and killed one yet? Why haven’t farmers had cattle and other livestock killed – or have they, and just been attributed to coyotes? With the tens of thousands of game cameras in the woods, how come we don’t see proof – serious proof, not pictures that can be traced back to other states via the internet? With all the bear hunters in the woods, how come dogs haven’t treed a mountain lion that has been verified? These are what skeptics, and state biologist will point to, and answers either won’t be found – or won’t be taken seriously.
Whether you believe the state has mountain lions moving back in to the region or not, sportsman will debate this topic until verifiable proof can be seen by all. Until then, check out Cougar Quest for some interesting research and information – http://www.btcent.com/cougarquest.htm – This article was written by Brian Barry, owner of VA-Outdoors.com