Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Once Again, Big Cats On The Rise

In recent days, there as been an upswing in reported big cat (but not mountain lion) sightings throughout North America, as can be read on sites like Cryptomundo and Blogsquatcher. I wonder if there are patterns? Why all of the sudden? Has anyone ever tried to analyze the sightings for their statistical importance?

And because I'm lazy ...

(from back in February 2008)

In the spring of 1961, a lion seemed to be roaming loose in the vicinity of Big Cabin, OK. Although some said it was a coyote or wolf, most witnesses agreed it looked like a lion. The animal was witnessed alongside highways, sleeping in a barn, and wandering the countryside. The creature was also blamed for attacks on area livestock.
Locals described the animal as an adult male African lion but none had been found missing from any nearby zoos. However, these reports were so compelling that zoo personnel, headed by Hugh Davis of Tulsa's Mohawk Park Zoo, joined veterinarians, and law enforcement in an intensive search for the beast while locals commenced to arming themselves. Bloodhounds and a plane joined in the search before too long. Zoo representatives were able to confirm that tracks found were from a very large feline of some type.
One woman called Hugh Davis to report seeing the animal lying alonside the Will Rogers Turnpike. Joyce Propp and Gwenyth Frazier were returning to the Propp farm with Propp's childen when in their headlight's they spotted the lion. It was lying within a few feet of the Propp home, eating a chicken. In time, reports started to come in from as far north as Vinita and as far south as Claremore.
In June of that year, and over a hundred and fifty miles southwest, near Duncan, an "African lion" was reported running loose by Mrs. Carl Payne, an employee at a local law firm. She reported seeing the creature in the bottoms of Wild Horse Creek, 14 miles northeast of the town. Mrs. Payne said it just stood by the side of the road and that she thought it might have been a Shetland pony at first glance. When Payne stopped her car, the lion disappeared into the tall grass by the creek. It was confirmed that "Tony" the lion at Duncan's city zoo was still at home in his cage. A hunt commenced for the creature with no results. What are the odds that two different lions would be roaming within weeks of one another? Was it the same animal? It's a long way to walk (even on four legs) from Vinita to Duncan. Incredible Journey, indeed!
The prevailing theory was that this creature had escaped from a circus truck that had recently stopped in Adair. However, this was an unconfirmed statement - an interesting fact when weighing the long-standing argument over the "escaped animal" theory. Often times, opponents will dismiss that these escapes happen with any appreciable frequency. And when there is an escape, it will be properly reported and the animal quickly recaptured.
The fact that no one knew for certain if this traveling circus had lost an animal bolsters my opinion that while the loss of a big attraction could cost a small circus money, a law-suit would certainly bankrupt it. The thinking is: pull up stakes and get out of town before anyone notices, in hopes that the animal situation will simply solve itself. This is especially likely with small, poorly funded circuses and animal parks where sometimes treatment of the animals is less important than the money they bring in.
Sadly, no further reporting was found on this story. But a few years later, a similiar tale cropped up in the same region again. In March 1965, Tulsa residents began reporting vague accounts of a lion or such on the loose, killing pets and livestock. A dog was badly mangled and seven hogs had been slaughtered. Reports claimed the creature was waist high to a 6 foot tall man. Officials at the local zoo denied having any escaped lions or cougars. A cooperative effort between the Sherriff's Department and Tulsa Police yielded few results and no capture.
Once again, I ask what happened to the lion? Was it captured or was it at large for some time? If so, it might have provided the basis for many anomalous big cat sightings in the state

No comments: