Monday, February 27, 2012


Picture from wikipedia
We have a sort of 'rule' around here: During the day, we and our livestock get to rule. At night, while we sun-loving creatures slumber, nocturnal animals have full reign. We just make sure that everyone we want alive the next morning is protected which sometimes means going out at 11:30 to bring in the chickens since we all forgot to close the door...

What sort of critters do we have running around at night? Well, there's always the local troop of coyotes that sing to the moon and keep chicken and barn cat populations in check, there's the family of owls that question each other across the ravine every night (one happens to perch in the woods next to our house), then there's bats, bobcats, and skunks (these guys are evil to chickens. I won't disclose the gruesome acts that they are capable of). So, I guess what I'm trying to say is, there is quite a night life out here. There is always someone voicing their opinions on something or announcing something for all to hear.

But there will be some nights that are oddly quiet. There's a sort of eerie silence that percolates deep into your imagination and makes the perfect setting for a horror story. Then you hear a scream from across the field. A long, high pitched, sustained, unearthly scream. The scream is too full and well rounded to be a child's scream and too long and sustained to be a woman's. What on earth could it be?! My brother and I give each other a quick glance at each other. The dog has already run up to the house. We make a break for it. As we're running up the hill on one side, the scream is going up on the other. We make it to the side door and slam it behind us. That was the most terrifying trip to take out the garbage - ever. Then, we grab our parents to listen. Silence.

A couple days later, our neighbor down the hill asked us if we had heard a scream because her husband thought that she was hearing things. We sure heard it alright. Commence research. Could it have been an alpaca from down the road? No. Rabbit? Nope. Coyotes? They don't scream; they howl and wail (confession - I find myself confusing sirens for coyotes when I'm in town). Then we found a clip of a cougar scream. Not the stereotypical, Hollywood movie sound, but the real thing. It sounded exactly the same. We had never heard of a cougar in our area. That was news to us. As we talked with neighbors and others on the mountain, we found out that, yes, there is a cougar that comes through occasionally. A local business man noticed that the deer population was smaller then normal. The neighbor from across the way got some pictures of a cougar on his trail cam down by the creek at the bottom of the ravine. Oy vey. Mom went into freaky mode - never go outside by yourself. Even if it's just for chores; take someone with you. Oh, and take the dog with you for good measure.

Then, the cougar disappeared for about a year and a half. That cat caused quite a stir here on the hill. Everyone seems to have their story of 'when the cougar was around.' We thought that we had heard the last of it. But it would not be so. Last summer, someone (who lived across the road from the pasture where our friend keeps her dairy cows) found a deer leg in the driveway. That was quite the 'good morning' - better than coffee. Someone from the Fish and Wildlife Services came out to confirm everyone's suspicions. There is only one predator that would consume prey of that size. It was back. But just as suddenly it came; it left. No other events that we heard about. But this is confirmed cougar territory.

Now, what I want to know is what did they do with that deer leg? :P

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