Exotic wildlife stories are common news fodder. They elicit fear from some, wonder from others. It's good, old-fashioned sensationalism. When I worked at a Florida newspaper, exotic animal stories were practically our bread and butter: lots of bears and gators, occasionally some whale sharks, wild boar, insanely huge snakes, etc.
Ohio's exotic wildlife list is considerably shorter but still fun to consider.
It would be easy to dismiss a single sighting such as the one last week except there's more to the story than a lone woman's claim in McDermott.
Northeast Ohio has recently experienced a rash of big cat sightings. Wildlife officials can't say what kind of felines they are but no one can prove they aren't cougars, either.
And then there's this: The Daily Times ran another cougar sighting story a few months ago, also from the McDermott area. Coincidence?
But wait: I also heard recently on NPR's All Things Considered: A cougar that was hit and killed by a car in Connecticut was positively identified by DNA tests as a South Dakota resident.
Don't ask me how they know, but the scientist sounded convincing.
If that report is true – and we take the word of our Wildlife officials who say cougars aren't found around here – how do you explain a cougar's trip from the Badlands to the East Coast?
Sure, the cat could have walked north around the Great Lakes and through Canada to get to Connecticut, but it's more likely, I'd say, that it walked south – right through Ohio!
So, maybe we don't have native cougars, but transitory cougars. Maybe that's why they're so elusive – they're just passing through.
Another reason to like these sighting stories: They are similar to Bigfoot and UFOs (unidentified furry objects?)
Some folks swear they've seen flying saucers and Bigfeet, and they often sound rational and sane about it. But without any hard evidence, who can believe it?
The photos I've seen from the Canton area cats are as blurry and inconclusive as the UFO evidence.
So, for the folks who live along the Cougar Highway, which must run through McDermott, I challenge them to get photographic evidence – with a telephoto lens, of course.
Because, really, I want to believe.
JOSH RICHARDSON may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 244, or firstname.lastname@example.org.