Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Big Cat Sighting!!

We live in the country. Real proper countryside stuff is part of our daily lives. I have been keeping chickens for about 14 years. I have been seen out of a field by a annoyed cow and have helped with lambing. Even though we are not farmers, all our neighbours are farmers. We've got a dairy farm next to us on the south and to the north we have sheep. To the west of our house is a planted forest. It is a happy coincidence that our neighbours have a son, Gordon that is only eight weeks younger than our George. These two are firm and life long friends.

Monday night I took George up to the farm with his guitar and amplifier so he could play with Gordon (they are forming a band) and his newly upgraded drum kit. About 9pm it was Henry's duty to collect him from "up the road".

At 9.20 pm the kitchen door opened and The Man of the Place and our son came hurrying in with eyes as big as saucers. "We've just seen the big cat!"This is not our photo, but you get a good idea of what was seen crossing the road next to our house!

They proceeded to tell me about the very large animal that was crossing the road between us and Charlie our nearest neighbour. For you city folks, the animal was about a city block away from us. Previously the only large wild animals that have been seen by us are badgers, foxes and deer. The phrase "it wasn't a fox" kept peppering the animated descriptions.

I was told that it was the size of a mountain lion and a dark sandy colour. The guys were quite shaken and told me to keep the dog in the house for the rest of the night.

We first called Mike the Gamekeeper. I wish we hadn't because he was a real wet blanket. He kept saying how he goes into those very woods every day and has never seen any sign of it. He kept talking about an unusually large dog fox that keeps taking the lambs and that must have been what Henry and George had seen.

The police (yes, they were called) and Jimmy in the paper shop the next morning were just as sceptical as Gamekeeper Mike. Thankfully when speaking to our neighbours, there was no scepticism at all. Innes (father of Gordon) said that he has seen a half eaten deer carcass in one of the tall shooting platforms that are dotted through the forests around here. Charlie has seen a large cat like animal leap up onto a stone dyke that was far heavier set than any fox. Young Jack, a boy who lives on a farm not too far from here came back from a walk in the woods with his face as white as chalk and his pocket knife in his hand with the blade out. He had seen some large cat that scared two days growth out of him. Duncan at the farm on the other side of Charlie says that he has seen it and has had dead sheep and lambs that are almost entirely consumed.

Foxes are delicately framed creatures. The animal that my family saw and the animal seen by our neighbour was heavily set and had very distinctive cat like movements. Henry described a cat's powerful stride with the rolling shoulder blades thing going on.

Sadly the camera wasn't available to them. Not that they would even have had time to get it out and snap a picture. The camera was sitting in MY car.

Last night involved another nighttime drive through the countryside to get George from his jujitsu. We had the camera this time.
There were about five hares, some bats and an owl or two - no decent photos of those - and an actual herd of deer. The deer also moved away too quickly for a shot but you can see the eyes of some of the deer in this picture. That's the other thing. I have never seen so many deer! After years and years not seeing one single deer ever, the deer sightings are almost daily now. Where there is prey there will be predators!The lane was covered in those orange larch needles I was telling you about earlier. Lichen in the trees.

I guess I am going to be much more wary when I am walking Polly up towards the ponds and taking the garbage out to the bins at night is going to be much less calm. In fact, I think I'll just save that particular job for daylight hours. For now.

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