By J. Bottum, from the December 22, 2000 Wall Street Journal:
Late afternoon on Christmas Eve, the year I was eleven, my father took me with him across the river. I can’t remember what the urgency was, but he needed some papers signed by a rancher who lived over on the other side of the Missouri from Pierre. So off we headed, west over the bridge and north through the river hills.
If you’ve never seen that South Dakota country in winter, you have no idea how desolate land can be. I once asked my grandmother why her grandfather had decided to stop his wagon-trek in what became the town where she was born. And she answered, in surprise that I didn’t know, “Because that’s where the tree was.”
Between 1887 and 1892, John C.H. Grabill sent 188 photographs to the Library of Congress for copyright protection. Grabill is known as a western photographer, documenting many aspects of frontier life & hunting, mining, western town landscapes and white settlersâ€™ relationships with Native Americans. Most of his work is centered on Deadwood in the late 1880s and 1890s. He is most often cited for his photographs in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee Massacre on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.link
[H]air and fecal matter [from the exactly same cougar] had been collected more than a year earlier by biologists tracking the Connecticut-bound cougar across Wisconsin. First spotted in Champlin, Minn., in December 2009, biologists tracked him as he zig-zagged through Wisconsin, leaving behind a trail of paw prints, hair and poop.
Even in Wisconsin â€” with its bears and wolves â€” cougars are unexpected visitors, says mammalian ecologist Adrian Wydeven of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in Park Falls.
There have been only four confirmed cougars in that state since 2008, so when the traveling cougar appeared, Wydeven and his team kept a watchful eye on his movements. From December 2009 through late spring 2010 they haunted the catâ€™s trail, collecting samples and sending them to the lab. In December, a trail camera captured a cougar prowling through the evening snow near an area where hair had been sampled earlier, providing scientists with a glimpse of the cat.
Then, after another trailside portrait in May 2010, the cat disappeared.
The next time he appeared was more than a year later and a half-continent away, just a few miles from the Connecticut shore. Scientists donâ€™t know much about the catâ€™s journey between Wisconsin and Connecticut, but wildlife biologist Clayton Nielsen of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale speculates the cat probably crossed Michiganâ€™s Upper Peninsula, then wound his way down through New York. â€œThereâ€™s no real way of knowing,â€ he says. â€œBut going south through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio â€” thatâ€™s very poor habitat, with a high likelihood that people would see the animal.â€
Nielsen, who is studying cougars in the Midwest, says while roaming young males are increasing in the area, there are still no known breeding populations east of the Black Hills, except for an endangered group of less than 100 in and around the Florida Everglades. Scientists hypothesize that the Connecticut cat was wandering in search of food and a mate â€” but since he didnâ€™t find a mate, he kept on moving. Female cougars donâ€™t travel nearly as far as males, which limits the establishment of new breeding populations. But, Nielsen hypothesizes, if a few females made similar journeys, itâ€™s plausible that a cougar population could re-establish itself farther east.
Thanks to the South Dakota cat and its incredible journey, residents of the Eastern United States can now experience the fear and thrill that come with living below the top of the food chain. America has grown a bit less tame.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said today that results of genetic tests show that the mountain lion killed in Milford in June made its way to the state from the Black Hills region of South Dakota and is an animal whose movements were actually tracked and recorded as it made its way through Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Genetic tests also show that it is likely that the mountain lion killed when it was hit by a car June 11 on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in Milford was the same one that had been seen earlier that month in Greenwich.
Mountain lion seen and filmed in Greenwich circa June 5.
Jack Russell Terriers are small dogs who don’t know their own size, as this case from Eastern South Dakota demonstrates. The valor of this particular terrier attracted international attention, and one of the best accounts is the one from the British Daily Mail.
It was a David and Goliath style battle that few would have thought possible.
But with the odds stacked against him, Jack the plucky Jack Russel chased a deadly mountain lion high into a tree.
The cornered lion remained trapped above the ground before the Jack Russel was able to pounce a few minutes later.
Jack’s owner, Chad Strenge, witnessed the astonishing scenes while he was walking Jack on farmland in South Dakota.
The pair had been hunting when Mr Strenge heard Jack barking frantically several hundred yards away.
Thinking that his heel-biting Jack Russel – a breed known for their high energy levels- might have caught a squirrel, Mr Strenge raced to a patch of dense woodland.
Incredibly, the 150lb mountain lion was trapped high in the branches while 17lb Jack bayed for his blood below.
‘He trees cats all the time. I suppose he figured it was just a cat,’ said Mr Strenge. …
Mr Strenge shot at the lion which knocked it from the tree. Jack then chased the lion over a short distance before Mr Strenge killed it with his gun.
Professor Jonathan Jenks, an expert on cougar migration, said hunters usually needed two or three hounds to chase a lion up a tree.
He said: ‘The cougar was probably not hungry enough to attack Jack.
‘It very well could have lost a territory and decided to take off from the Black Hills and head this way.’
Arden Petersen, of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks department, said that no charges would be filed for shooting the animal.
People in South Dakota have the right to kill mountain lions which they feel are a threat to themselves, their livestock or their pets.
The lion was taken to South Dakota State University, where it will be studied.
Despite sitting in a hot, bubbling Jacuzzi on her deck Thursday morning, Marlene Todd froze.
She had just eased into in the hot tub a little after 7 a.m. on the deck of her Spring Street home when she heard some rustling beside her.
There was a mountain lion, crouching less than a foot away.
The lion must have been equally surprised. It was cornered somewhat because the deck stairs blocked its retreat. It would have to go up and over the hot tub.
“It just took a leap. It jumped on the side of the hot tub,” Todd said. “We locked eyes, and it kicked off of the hot tub and ran away. When it jumped, it flipped my robe into the hot tub.”
Todd immediately cut short her soak and wrapped herself in her wet robe, slipped on her shoes, secured the lid on the hot tub and went inside her house.
She summoned Deadwood police, who surmised that the lion was stalking some deer that were in the neighborhood. Police also speculated that the mountain lion was staying near the warmth of the hot tub on the frosty morning.
“I didn’t need caffeine this morning, I know that,” Todd said.