"There's no way it was anything but a cougar," says David Bradley. "That's what it was."
Bradley believes he lives near a small cougar cluster in Lawrenceburg. Mounds of what he calls evidence piled on his kitchen table, including paw prints. Bradley has pictures of carcasses he believes were prey, pictures of injured pets, and the video he says is proof. Watch closely as the animal jumps back and forth. He believes his trail camera caught a still shot of it too. You decide for yourself. There's more video. Even though they appear light, Bradley says these are actually tawny colored like cougars. He believes video shot at such a long distance with the sun's refleciton makes them appear lighter than they are. Bradley says all the cats have long tails like cougars at the Nashville Zoo. The tail a distinguishing feature, since bobcats, native to Tennessee, have bobtails. The TWRA says there's no credible evidence cougars are here.
"No we do not have cougars in Middle Tennessee," says TWRA's Gray Anderson. "We do not have cougars in Tennessee at all."
When state wildlife officials give the standard response, there are those who tink it's a cougar coverup, those who say we've had pocket populations of this large feline all along. People like Realtor Cheryl Ewing, who was showing a house in Brentwood's Willowmet subdivision one day. She too came to the cougar conclusion after it turned around.
"What really got me was the long tail as it went back up into the woods," says Ewing.
Then a woman walking at Crockett Park around Thanksgiving snapped a shot.
"From a distance and even though it's a little bit grainy," says Brentwood Assistant City Manager Kirk Bednar. "It has that type of body structure that you would think about as far as a cougar or mountain lion."
Brentwood Police found large prints measuring they say at least 4" long.
"It was obviously larger than a domestic cat," says Brentwood Police Department's Captain Tommy Walsh. "It was larger than a dog. It was different than anything I had seen before."
6 weeks later in the Reserve at Raintree Forest, a dentist warns neighbors he's "pretty confident it was a cougar" that tried to swipe his dog. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared the Eastern cougar extinct, saying there's no proof they're here in the Eastern U.S. They are established populations in the green areas out West, with confirmation of cougars Eastward. The closest to us that the federal government acknowledges is a cougar killed in Georgia in 2008. A Union University biologist in Jackson, Tennessee started a website for people to post their sightings. Even if we don't have a stable breeding population, Dr. James Huggins does believe the large cats are on the move.
"I do think they can pass through," says Union University Biologist James Huggins. "I do think they've passed through the state with reports in contiguious states. I think that's very, very possible."
Back to the most recent picture and print captured in Brentwood. The TWRA says the paw print found at Crockett Park belongs to a canine, because you can draw an X from the pad past the heel pad without touching it. On a cougar paw, you can't.
"There's probably an animal out there, what that animal is I'm not sure," says Gray. "It's not a wild cougar."
There's no changing th eminds of those who are "cougar convinced".
"I do believe it was a cougar," says Ewing. "That's what it was."
"I don't know why they won't acknowledge it, but they won't," says Bradley.
The TWRA says it's possible what people are seeing are illegally held animals that just got away. A couple of years ago, we reported on a sighting in Sumner County. Pretty compelling. If federal and state wildlife officials acknowledge they're here, they'd have to establish territories to protect the endangered species, and public safety campaigns. It all comes down to money. In fact, you'll hear from one of those conspiracy theorists TONIGHT on FOX17 NEWS at 10.
Thursday, February 2 2012, 09:39 PM CST
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