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Mountain Lions? Not here, says DNR

       cougar or bobcat

MOUNTAIN LION OR NOT? This photo was taken with a trail camera at the Pickens Airport on Jan. 4. Initially it was thought to be a mountain lion, but research and a DNR biologist show it’s a bobcat, which is commonly mistaken for a mountain lion. 

 

        I got the tip last weekend – a “mountain lion” was spotted at the Pickens County Airport.

The following Monday I contacted airport manager Randy Thomason. Yes, he told me, they saw two big cats and sent me a black-and-white photo from a trail cam on the property. 

“It’s a mountain lion?” I asked. 

They weren’t sure, but said they thought so.

The photo Thomason sent me showed an animal that, to a reporter untrained in such things, could very well have been a mountain lion. Over the years, I’d heard more than a few rumors about them being spotted in the area. 

In true bigfoot style, the first photo we received was dark and grainy, and key parts of the animal were either covered by vegetation or difficult to make out. I’d seen a bobcat in person and the cat in the picture appeared larger and more mountain lion-ish to me. When I showed it to other people in the newsroom they agreed it was possible, and excitement started to build. 

 

         Cougar or Not? 

 

The newsroom staff found a Minnesota newspaper that created a test, “Cougar or Not?,” modeled after a similar test the director of The Cougar Network puts on social media  - #CougarOrNot. You’re shown a picture and guess if the animal is a cougar, bobcat or housecat. The editorial room played and got the first few wrong, but by the end of the test we’d learned some key, distinguishing differences between cougars and bobcats: cougars have long tails, bobcats have short “bobbed” tails; cougars weigh up to 175 pounds, bobcats don’t get over 45; cougars have solid colored ears, bobcats have white on the back of their ears; cougars have solid-colored bodies, bobcats are often (but not always) spotted or mottled.  

While doing some cursory Google searches we learned how rare mountain lion (cougar) sightings are in Georgia, and that it’s very common for people to mistake a bobcat for its larger feline cousin. I contacted Georgia DNR and they directed me to a biologist, who told me I was one of many, many calls they get just like mine – people with pictures of a big cat they (wrongly) think is a mountain lion.   

“We get calls like this all the time,” said David Gregory, the Georgia DNR Biologist who told me that in his “professional opinion, it’s a bobcat.” He came to his conclusion based on the shape of the animal’s head and ears, size of the animal compared to vegetation in the photo, and other features. According to the DNR “‘mountain lion’ sightings are “usually made from a distance, at night, or in an instance where the animal was only momentarily seen (such as rapidly crossing the road) or otherwise obscured.”

According to the DNR, big cat sightings are usually a case of mistaken identity for other animals like “bobcats, house cats, dogs, coyotes, bears or even river otters.”

“To my knowledge there is no wild population of mountain lions in this area,” Gregory told me, noting there could be outlying events when non-native cougars are kept illegally as pets or in zoos and get loose. He told me the closest place large cats are native is the Florida panther from south Florida. 

According to the DNR, “there have been two recognized subspecies of cougar or mountain lion in the eastern United States. The eastern cougar is one of many common names given to large cats that once lived throughout much of eastern North America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently proposed that the eastern cougar be considered extinct in the wild.” 

The state agency says there has been no credible physical evidence (carcasses, trail camera pictures, photographs, film footage) found to substantiate the existence of a population of mountain lions in Georgia.

“I recall one instance about 10 or 11 years ago, a hunter in middle Georgia shot a large cat and it ended up being a Florida panther that had found its way up here,” Gregory told me. “I recall one being documented in Tennessee, but that was west Tennessee, not anywhere near us. Males can roam but the chances of one coming here on a walkabout is very unlikely.” 

 

Okay fine, it’s a bobcat 

 

According to the DNR, there have only been three credible mountain lion sightings in Georgia in the last 25 years and they were all related to the Florida panther. On the other hand, Gregory said bobcats and bobcat sightings are very common in the north Georgia area. 

The newsroom’s excitement quickly faded when we realized our mountain lion was probably a bobcat.

“Bobcats are secretive, but it’s common to see them,” Gregory said. “Any hunter who has a trail cam will see them regularly.”

Despite their secretive nature, in-person bobcat sightings are also common, but seeing a cat that’s at least twice the size of a house cat  could be alarming to people who come across one - but Gregory said he doesn’t consider them a threat.

“It’s a wild animal so there’s always a risk, but I’ve never heard of anyone being attacked by a bobcat. I don’t consider them dangerous,” he said. 

Bobcats can be found throughout Georgia, with a male’s home range being around 10 square miles and female’s range being much smaller at about one mile, according to the DNR. Hunters can also trap and hunt bobcats legally from December 1 through February 28. The DNR reports trappers annually harvest between 1,200 and 1,800 bobcats while hunters harvest Cougar or Not? 

The newsroom staff found a Minnesota newspaper that created a test, “Cougar or Not?,” modeled after a similar test the director of The Cougar Network puts on social media  - #CougarOrNot. You’re shown a picture and guess if the animal is a cougar, bobcat or housecat. The editorial room played and got the first few wrong, but by the end of the test we’d learned some key, distinguishing differences between cougars and bobcats: cougars have long tails, bobcats have short “bobbed” tails; cougars weigh up to 175 pounds, bobcats don’t get over 45; cougars have solid colored ears, bobcats have white on the back of their ears; cougars have solid-colored bodies, bobcats are often (but not always) spotted or mottled.  

While doing some cursory Google searches we learned how rare mountain lion (cougar) sightings are in Georgia, and that it’s very common for people to mistake a bobcat for its larger feline cousin. I contacted Georgia DNR and they directed me to a biologist, who told me I was one of many, many calls they get just like mine – people with pictures of a big cat they (wrongly) think is a mountain lion.   

“We get calls like this all the time,” said David Gregory, the Georgia DNR Biologist who told me that in his “professional opinion, it’s a bobcat.” He came to his conclusion based on the shape of the animal’s head and ears, size of the animal compared to vegetation in the photo, and other features. According to the DNR “‘mountain lion’ sightings are “usually made from a distance, at night, or in an instance where the animal was only momentarily seen (such as rapidly crossing the road) or otherwise obscured.”

According to the DNR, big cat sightings are usually a case of mistaken identity for other animals like “bobcats, house cats, dogs, coyotes, bears or even river otters.”

“To my knowledge there is no wild population of mountain lions in this area,” Gregory told me, noting there could be outlying events when non-native cougars are kept illegally as pets or in zoos and get loose. He told me the closest place large cats are native is the Florida panther from south Florida. 

According to the DNR, “there have been two recognized subspecies of cougar or mountain lion in the eastern United States. The eastern cougar is one of many common names given to large cats that once lived throughout much of eastern North America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently proposed that the eastern cougar be considered extinct in the wild.” 

The state agency says there has been no credible physical evidence (carcasses, trail camera pictures, photographs, film footage) found to substantiate the existence of a population of mountain lions in Georgia.

“I recall one instance about 10 or 11 years ago, a hunter in middle Georgia shot a large cat and it ended up being a Florida panther that had found its way up here,” Gregory told me. “I recall one being documented in Tennessee, but that was west Tennessee, not anywhere near us. Males can roam but the chances of one coming here on a walkabout is very unlikely.” 

 

Okay fine, it’s a bobcat 

 

According to the DNR, there have only been three credible mountain lion sightings in Georgia in the last 25 years and they were all related to the Florida panther. On the other hand, Gregory said bobcats and bobcat sightings are very common in the north Georgia area. 

The newsroom’s excitement quickly faded when we realized our mountain lion was probably a bobcat.

“Bobcats are secretive, but it’s common to see them,” Gregory said. “Any hunter who has a trail cam will see them regularly.”

Despite their secretive nature, in-person bobcat sightings are also common, but seeing a cat that’s at least twice the size of a house cat  could be alarming to people who come across one - but Gregory said he doesn’t consider them a threat.

“It’s a wild animal so there’s always a risk, but I’ve never heard of anyone being attacked by a bobcat. I don’t consider them dangerous,” he said. 

Bobcats can be found throughout Georgia, with a male’s home range being around 10 square miles and female’s range being much smaller at about one mile, according to the DNR. Hunters can also trap and hunt bobcats legally from December 1 through February 28. The DNR reports trappers annually harvest between 1,200 and 1,800 bobcats while hunters harvest Cougar or Not? 

The newsroom staff found a Minnesota newspaper that created a test, “Cougar or Not?,” modeled after a similar test the director of The Cougar Network puts on social media  - #CougarOrNot. You’re shown a picture and guess if the animal is a cougar, bobcat or housecat. The editorial room played and got the first few wrong, but by the end of the test we’d learned some key, distinguishing differences between cougars and bobcats: cougars have long tails, bobcats have short “bobbed” tails; cougars weigh up to 175 pounds, bobcats don’t get over 45; cougars have solid colored ears, bobcats have white on the back of their ears; cougars have solid-colored bodies, bobcats are often (but not always) spotted or mottled.  

While doing some cursory Google searches we learned how rare mountain lion (cougar) sightings are in Georgia, and that it’s very common for people to mistake a bobcat for its larger feline cousin. I contacted Georgia DNR and they directed me to a biologist, who told me I was one of many, many calls they get just like mine – people with pictures of a big cat they (wrongly) think is a mountain lion.   

“We get calls like this all the time,” said David Gregory, the Georgia DNR Biologist who told me that in his “professional opinion, it’s a bobcat.” He came to his conclusion based on the shape of the animal’s head and ears, size of the animal compared to vegetation in the photo, and other features. According to the DNR “‘mountain lion’ sightings are “usually made from a distance, at night, or in an instance where the animal was only momentarily seen (such as rapidly crossing the road) or otherwise obscured.”

According to the DNR, big cat sightings are usually a case of mistaken identity for other animals like “bobcats, house cats, dogs, coyotes, bears or even river otters.”

“To my knowledge there is no wild population of mountain lions in this area,” Gregory told me, noting there could be outlying events when non-native cougars are kept illegally as pets or in zoos and get loose. He told me the closest place large cats are native is the Florida panther from south Florida. 

According to the DNR, “there have been two recognized subspecies of cougar or mountain lion in the eastern United States. The eastern cougar is one of many common names given to large cats that once lived throughout much of eastern North America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently proposed that the eastern cougar be considered extinct in the wild.” 

The state agency says there has been no credible physical evidence (carcasses, trail camera pictures, photographs, film footage) found to substantiate the existence of a population of mountain lions in Georgia.

“I recall one instance about 10 or 11 years ago, a hunter in middle Georgia shot a large cat and it ended up being a Florida panther that had found its way up here,” Gregory told me. “I recall one being documented in Tennessee, but that was west Tennessee, not anywhere near us. Males can roam but the chances of one coming here on a walkabout is very unlikely.” 

 

Okay fine, it’s a bobcat 

 

According to the DNR, there have only been three credible mountain lion sightings in Georgia in the last 25 years and they were all related to the Florida panther. On the other hand, Gregory said bobcats and bobcat sightings are very common in the north Georgia area. 

The newsroom’s excitement quickly faded when we realized our mountain lion was probably a bobcat.

“Bobcats are secretive, but it’s common to see them,” Gregory said. “Any hunter who has a trail cam will see them regularly.”

Despite their secretive nature, in-person bobcat sightings are also common, but seeing a cat that’s at least twice the size of a house cat  could be alarming to people who come across one - but Gregory said he doesn’t consider them a threat.

“It’s a wild animal so there’s always a risk, but I’ve never heard of anyone being attacked by a bobcat. I don’t consider them dangerous,” he said. 

Bobcats can be found throughout Georgia, with a male’s home range being around 10 square miles and female’s range being much smaller at about one mile, according to the DNR. Hunters can also trap and hunt bobcats legally from December 1 through February 28. The DNR reports trappers annually harvest between 1,200 and 1,800 bobcats while hunters harvest three to five times that many.

 

Airport wildlife

 

I reported my findings back to the airport manager, who still seemed excited to have captured the image of a bobcat on the trail cam. He mentioned that a man who does odd jobs at the property saw another one in person around the same time, and said wildlife is abundant at the Upper Salem Church Road airport.  

“I think the two cats were here following game,” Thomason said. “I don’t know if they were trying to get to the big group of turkeys that comes around, or all the deer that start to come out of the woods at about 5:30 every night. We have a lot of wildlife out here, and it’s not good when airplanes and animals mix. We try our best to keep them off the runway.” 

Thomason told me six months ago a plane was totaled when it hit a deer while trying to land, and that in another instance a plane hit a flock of Canada geese in the air. The airport has so much active wildlife, they warn pilots ahead of time through the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We have notices out about birds, turkey, deer and we try to talk to pilots to avoid them,” he said. “We’ve had coyotes, rabbits, rats, snakes – we’ve got a little bit of everything.” 

Learn more about the native Georgia bobcat population at www.georgiawildlife.com.

County gets head start on icy winter roads

brine IMG 3740

Damon Howell / Photo

 

      The county was busy last Wednesday morning mixing the first batch of brine with their newly-installed equipment. The system will allow the county to produce their own salt solution in-house, which means they can make as much as they need to treat Pickens County roads before storms hit. In years past, brine would be trucked in from other counties— causing roads to ice over before it could be delivered. Director of Utilities Phillip Dean (pictured) said the new equipment makes it possible to get a jump on predicted storms as soon as they hit Alabama.

Read more: County gets head start on icy winter roads

Society wants to make history vital Pickens Historical Society wants to see Old Jail become new draw

appalchian heritage night speakers

Woodbridge owner Dwight Henderson (left) and Bill Cagle, president of the Pickens Historical Society, discuss local history at the Appalachian Heritage Night Friday.

At Appalachian Heritage Night, speaker Bill Cagle, president of the Pickens Historical Society, unveiled plans for the re-energized group to be “more vital in the community.”

Cagle said Friday that the society has some ambitious plans to showcase the area’s unique past with some lively events. The group, formerly named the Marble Valley Historical Society, is most widely known as caretakers of the Old Jail on Main Street.

Read more: Society wants to make history vital Pickens Historical Society wants to see Old Jail become new draw

Master Gardeners plant sale and Spring Fling Symposium coming in February

 

 

By Dee Boggus

Master Gardeners

 

It is that time of year again. Time to think of new ways to improve and beautify your outdoor surroundings. Successful landscaping can enhance the beauty of your own property and support local youth and organizations at the same time. How? Just purchase new landscaping and fruiting plants from the Master Gardener Program’s (MGP) 2019 Plant Sale starting February 4th and ending March 15th.  By doing so you will help fund a trip to 4H camp for local youth as well as supporting many local charitable organizations (like Habitat for Humanity).

This year local master gardeners have made a concerted effort to choose as many native (plants that originated in and are accustomed to our environment) and fauna attracting (including pollinators like bees and butterflies) varieties as possible for our 2019 sale. Long-lived perennials such as lenten rose and native azalea, beautiful hydrangea bushes, and native herbaceous perennials that

Read more: Master Gardeners plant sale and Spring Fling Symposium coming in February

Fatal crashes here the lowest in eight years

Ga-state-patrol-logo

 

Georgia State Patrol Reports show fatal crashes in Pickens County were down 77 percent in 2018, the lowest number recorded in the last eight years. 

According to GSP statistics, there were nine fatalities in 2017 and just two county-wide in 2018. 

GSP handles all vehicle fatalities in Pickens County. 

GSP Post #28 Commander Tim Nichols said it is difficult to determine the reason of the decrease, and noted it is too early to tell the impact of Georgia’s new hands-free driving law, which went into effect on July 1.  

Read more: Fatal crashes here the lowest in eight years