When an email from my sister-in-law arrived in January with the subject line “Hello Kitty,” she wasn’t writing me about the ubiquitous Japanese fictional character. I read the note right away — Tracee had news to report: a big cat sighting, possibly a cougar. We had discussed big cats in Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky before. Tracee is an avid horsewoman who’s lived in rural Monroe County, Ind., and rural Henderson County, Ky. — places where big cats have been reported.
Tracee sent me a picture from her friend Shane Rorer (used here with permission), of Elberfeld, Ind. The Evansville Sheet Metal worker was hunting on his family’s farm — in his family for more than 100 years — in Delaware, Ky. (in Henderson County), in January when he noticed property damage. He and his cousin installed a trail cam to monitor the farm. His cousin checked the cam a few days later and discovered the picture of the cat. Rorer says he is skeptical it is a cougar, but admits he has no explanation of what it is. “If it is a cougar,” Rorer says, “it’s a bit scary because I was walking through that woods in the dark.”
The cougar, also known as the mountain lion, puma, or panther, is native to the Americas. Its range, from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes, is the greatest of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Reports of possible mountain lion sightings across Indiana continue coming in even though state wildlife officials haven’t confirmed any sightings for nearly four years.
The state Department of Natural Resources has received about 300 reports of possible big cat sightings since early 2010, agency biologist Shawn Rossler told The Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.) in a story on Jan. 31, 2014. The animals had last been confirmed in the state during the 1860s.