Virginia town tries to prove existence of ‘ghost cats’

By | September 21, 2008

Virginia town tries to prove existence of ghost cats

Like some other residents of this small town, Mary Elizabeth Goodwyn doesn’t go outside after dark much anymore. Goodwyn, 81, used to welcome the dusk under a red maple tree in her front yard every evening, but that was before cougars started showing up in Blackstone — at least in the local newspaper.

Since 2003, the Courier-Record has run at least 15 stories on cougar sightings in town and in the neighboring 41,000-acre Army National Guard training base.

Wildlife officials say that except for a known population of 100 in Florida, the large cats — also called mountain lions, pumas, panthers and the fitting “ghost cats” — were wiped out in the eastern United States by 1900. They claim sightings most likely are cases of mistaken identity — perhaps a bobcat, deer or even a Labrador retriever.

“The sense I get is there are a number of game commission people laughing, and that bothers me a bit because we’ve got good people here who aren’t crazy,” said Billy Coleburn, who as editor of the paper wrote most of the stories. – ss

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