cat tales run wild in Craigsville
Man claims to have taken
-- Buzz at the IGA is that a cougar is hunting
in the corn fields. In town, folks are saying
they've seen a lion lurking at the edge of the
are spreading in Craigsville that a big cat --
no one seems sure what kind -- is on the
all started when Joe Rowland rolled into his
driveway off Augusta Springs Road after a trip
to town. He scanned the yard for wildlife, as
he always does. Deer sometimes graze between
the hay bales; rabbits often skip into the
July 19, Rowland saw a lump of tan fur in a
low place, and initially took it to be a deer.
But as he got closer, he saw it was a big cat.
Exclaiming, "Oh my God!," he darted
into his house for a digital camera. He
tip-toed into the field, getting about 60 feet
from the beast, when it raised its head and
looked straight at him.
the beast took three leaps into the protection
of the corn field, Rowland took a big step
backwards and raised his camera above his
the house, he quickly printed a picture for
his friend Roy Thompson, who checks game at
the IGA. There, the pair hovered over the
copier machine, peering at blown up images and
comparing them with the store's collection of
mounts. It looked too pale to be a bobcat, and
too feline for a small bear. Could it be a
mountain lion?, Rowland wondered.
next morning, Virginia Department of Game and
Inland Fisheries officials paid Rowland a
visit. They laid a sand trap, set up a
surveillance camera and interviewed other town
Hubbard was leaving the IGA check-out Sunday
when he asked manager Thompson if there was
any more word on the lion.
the looks of the face of it, I believe it is a
lion. I honestly believe it is a lion,"
Hubbard said about a picture kept on the store
copy machine with other snapshots of local
Harmon said he was driving to work last week
when he spotted a cat with a tufted tail
rolling in an open field in Showker's Flats.
He slowed to 25 mph to catch a glimpse.
pretty sure I saw a cougar," Harmon said,
describing a 6-foot-long cat with a
3-foot-long tail. "It was huge."
rumors of an African lion being loose, no
livestock had been reported killed by a wild
Borgueouis, a wildlife biologist with the
Virginia Department of Game and Inland
Fisheries said he is pretty sure the
now-mythic creature is neither an African or
lions have been extirpated from the
commonwealth, and were classified as
endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service in 1973, according to the department's
Web site. Small populations exist in the Smoky
Mountain National Park and the Carolinas,
according to the Web site.
a lot of people in that area it could look
like an African lion (in the photo), but when
you start putting things together like the
height of the grass, etc., it points to a
smaller animal," Borgueouis said. Game
officials measured the grass, finding that it
was between 6 and 8 inches. In Rowland's
photograph, grass brushes the bottom of the
e-mailed low-quality photos to The News
Leader, but said he had deleted his camera's
memory stick and given a floppy disk of images
to game officials.
Sunday, Rowland was impatient for game
officials to pick up a full roll of film from
a motion-sensitive surveillance camera. He had
even volunteered to drive it to Wal-Mart for
has been confirmed yet," Borgeouis said,
"But people are catching glimpses here