Out riding on Saturday morning, Tracy Curran’s horse suddenly froze.
They were just north of the 5500 block of 5 Mile Road about 10:45 a.m., when Curran said she saw “a very large cat, that wasn’t a fox or a coyote.”
The cat was about 4 feet long, and orange or tan colored, and weighed between 80 and 90 pounds, Curran said. It had a long tail and was crouched close to the ground.
“It was hunting something, and I was glad that it was hunting something else and not me,” she said.
The cat walked slowly away and for about 45 seconds had its back to Curran.
She called Eric Roberson, President of Caledonia Conservancy, and he told her to slowly back away from the animal and head back to the barn. Curran called the police, who told her to call the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. They said they wouldn’t come out to investigate unless someone or something was being attacked.
“I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Someone needs to get hurt for you to investigate?’” Curran said. “I’m not some crazy person, I’m just concerned for people’s safety.”
Curran also called Fran Martin, past president of the Caledonia Conservancy and owner of the property Curran was on at the time of the sighting. Martin said she received two phone calls from the people who saw the cat-like animal. However, Curran said the other caller admitted their sighting was a hoax, but Curran maintains hers was real.
“I believe her,” Martin said.
“It was a surprise, and not a pleasant one either,” Martin said. “I walk my dog back there and I’m now keeping my horses in the front pasture. I’m also keeping the electric going on the fence.”
Adrian Wydeven, carnivore specialist with the DNR, said while cougars have been located in Wisconsin, they have typically been found in the northern and western parts of the state. Still, cougars are known to travel from western South Dakota as far away a Connecticut. One was shot in the Chicago area in 2008. So while Wydeven didn’t rule out the possibility of cougar being in the area, he also said it’s not highly probable that’s the animal people saw.
Cougars are very large cats. They have long rounded tails, rounded heads, rounded ears, dark patches of fur along their face and are a solid tan color.
“People often mistake a bobcat for a cougar and sometimes they mistake a wolf, coyote and fox for them, especially if they didn’t get a long look at them,” Wydeven said. “If you are seeing an animal from far off, it’s hard to judge weight and size.”
Still, if the animal was a cougar, the element of danger is very little, and they aren’t going to stay long, Wydeven said.
“They are pretty reclusive animals and they are likely just passing through because they are trying to find another patch of habitat and females,” Wydeven said. “There haven’t been any females verified in United States east of Mississippi, outside of Florida.”
If someone does see what they think is a cougar, you should stand your ground, yell at the animal but don’t take your eyes off of it and back away slowly, Wydeven said.
Once in a safe place, Wydeven said they should call the DNR at (715) 762-1363.