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Tales of big cats from the pastPosted Friday, January 4, 2013, at 2:39 PM
There's always been tales of big cats in the area and yesterday Sabrina Westfall ran into an old column in a back issue dated Jan. 8, 1988. It was written by Mike Dickerson in his column called "Smoke Signals." Here's what it said, slightly edited....
Hoosier woods lore and legends are certainly an interesting topic with local residents, and when the topic centers on such things as Bigfoot-type creatures, wild cats and other unusual creatures, everyone has their own opinion.
One such legend that is currently a topic of discussion is the possible existence of a large "cat" in the area.
About two weeks ago, a man who lives about five miles north of Linton near old coal mine strip ground called and said his beagle dog was missing and that he saw a large animal near the area in which the dog disappeared and heard strange noises in the night.
He later found that a Great Dane had gotten the beagle, but still maintained several area residents had seen a cat-type creature in the woods. I talked to his son who said he has seen the cat.
The elder man once made a plaster cast of a track he found resembling a cat track, and others have reported such animals in the area, yet no solid proof has been submitted, such as photos, or an animal itself, at least to my knowledge.
While the possibility is remote, who is to say that large cats or panthers or whatever do not exist in the woods in our area? After all, we do support a healthy coyote population, as well as other animals of large size.
Our deer population is also high, and due to coal mine reclamation, there are fairly large expanses of sparsely populated territory for just such animals.
Harold Allison, Hoosier author and columnist, said he believes there is the possibility of the panthers in the area. Allison said he has received several reports of the cat-type creatures in Greene, Vigo, Clay and Sullivan counties.
Allison went on to say the sightings of large cats have been reported in 23 Indiana and seven Illinois counties in our area with over 275 sightings in all. Allison has a map with pins marking the sightings, and many of them are in Greene and neighboring counties.
Allison said he has seen several tracks himself of a large cat-type animal and conservation officers, police officers, and other knowledgeable people have reported the sightings.
"At first I was skeptical," Allison explained, "but there have been too many reports." Allison went on to explain that it will take a photo or one of the animals itself to prove the suspicions of the existence of the animals to doubters.
Allison said early literature of Monroe and Greene counties refers to coal black panthers, and there was a species of eastern panther in the area which became extinct 75-80 years ago when the food supply diminished.
Now, however, the food supply is sufficient to support carnivorous animals, according to Allison, since deer have made a comeback in recent years.
According to a dispatcher at the Conservation Office at Paynetown, near Bloomington, sightings have been reported in the Bloomington area and near Crane. A postal worker reported seeing a large cat east of Bloomington and a conservation Officer was sent to investigate. The officer found large tracks and said it was definitely a large animal of the cat type.
A woman near Lewis told me her nephew saw one of the animals while mending fence. His first tip-off was a sound he said "was like someone trying to start a chainsaw."
But not everyone is as certain. A noted wildlife biologist for the DNR said there have been sightings that usually turns out to be something else.
That's the end of Dickerson's column.
Thanks to everyone who sent in a tip or stories from past newspapers -- continuing to collect info.
Anna Rochelle is a staff writer for the Greene County Daily World and can be reached by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the office at 812-847-4487.
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