A Predator on the Prowl

A Predator on the Prowl
By: Amy Jacquin

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO --"To sit there an hold a 75 to 100-pound hog down and kill it like that," Don Seyer says, shaking his head.
A mountain lion, or cougar, may be on the prowl in Cape Girardeau County. Something is killing pigs and attacking other animals. And it's strong enough to tear holes in welded-wire fencing.
Seyer lives near the intersection of Highways KK and D, north of Oak Ridge.
If it is a mountain lion, males may travel up to 25 miles a night when hunting.
But there's no proof either way... At least not yet.
"It looked like somebody took a knife from one end of its rib cage to the other," Seyer describes the killing. "And I'm talking about all the way around. Also, the other pig had several slices around the neck area."
Seyer now grabs a gun when he heads outside.
"It ripped a hole in the fence big enough I can fit a volleyball through," he points to the gaping hole.
It takes a lot of strength to twist this welded wire. And pig's skin is extra tough... both reasons why coyotes are not suspected. Large dogs are still a possibility, but their teeth tear more than slice. Plus, dogs tend to fight other dogs. And Seyer's German Shepherds were not harmed.
"Cats' claws are narrower," says Conservation Agent Gene Myers as he points to some dog tracks. "You normally don't even see the claws on cats, unless they're actively in the middle of attacking or defending."
There are tracks, but nothing conclusive. Some partial prints measure over 3.5 inches.
"You couldn't 100 percent rule out a mountain lion, or say it was a dog, either one," Myers summarizes. "There are too many variables in this case."
Myers says seeing the carcasses would have helped solve the puzzle. A conservation task force is very interested in tracking mountain lion activity. They're trying to get a grasp on how many might be around, and their activity. He encourages you to contact your conservation agent as soon as you see or suspect activity.
"The fresher the evidence, whether it's a carcass or tracks of the animal or whatever, the better our chances to figure out just what went on," he stresses.
Myers did take some hair gathered off the wire, and plans to get an expert analysis. But at first glance he believes it belongs to the Seyer's dogs.
The predator also ripped a wide swath of hide from Seyer's miniature colt... ripping hide away from muscle from toward the top of it's hindquarters down. It's speed, and Seyer's German Shepherds, likely saved it's life.
"I'm not 100 percent positive what is is," Seyer shrugs. "I have to see it first."
Statistics prove there are more mountain lions in the Heartland, but Myers believes the cats are still few and far between. Areas with a lot of woods, plentiful game, and sink holes or caves make good habitat.
Seyer is worried about the safety of his kids. The attacks happened about 30 feet from their swingset, and 60 feet from the house. For now, the kids are forbidden to come outside when it's dark.
"The youngest one is seven years old," he says. "I'm concerned when her and her friends are up here playing and squealing around."
"Mountain lions probably attack more people than bears do," admits Myers. "But the literature says your more likely to get struck by lightening."
"It's pretty scary," says Christy Stewart.
Stewart is a neighbor who feeds horses on remote property, often in the dark. She's glimpsed a mountain lion in the area herself... but never heard of something stalking prey so close to humans.
"I only feed during the day now, and I never ever go alone," adds Stewart. "I always bring somebody with me."
Several other neighbors tell Heartland News they've either seen mountain lions or bears, or both.
It's illegal to hunt them. But if Seyer can prove a lion did the damage, or catch it attacking again, he can kill it to protect his property and family.
Until the predator is positively identified... and the threat controled... people here admit to feeling on edge.