(First things first -- not all this research is mine. In fact, very little of it is, outside of the similarities with the Maori legend. However, it's not a very well publicized idea, though it is very likely to be the case and is possibly grounds for eliminating the famous Piasa Bird from the list of cryptozoological beings and as such, really should be put out there.)
A great hero, arising in a land terrorized by a monstrous, man-eating bird, comes up with a daring plan. Using another man as bait, he lures the monster bird out from its lair, and while it is distracted by the chase, he leaps out from hiding and kills the beast. Such a story is familiar to many in the cryptozoological community as the killing of the infamous Piasa, the monstrous bird depicted on a rock painting near Alton, Illinois.
However, this story is not that of Ouatago, the Native American chief who slew the Piasa. Rather, it is the story of Pungarehu, and the bird in question was not that chimera of Illinois folklore, but the Poukai or Pouaka. The people preyed upon were not the Illini, but the Maori of New Zealand. (The Poukai, or its prototype the Haast's Eagle, has been in the news recently).
In the cryptozoological literature the Piasa story has been told and retold and likened to the more modern sightings of gigantic raptorine birds throughout Illinois, with a few researchers noting the story as somewhat dubious - but then, of course, they go on to recount it anyway.
A few years back two friends of mine, Ben Roesch and John Moore, published a small magazine called The Cryptozoology Review. Of course, I've now come to realize quite a few CFZers also wrote for the magazine; there were several contributions by Darren Naish, and Richard Muirhead wrote a few as well. I believe Jon Downes may have written some things up for it, but I could be wrong (and probably am, knowing me).
In the Summer 1998 issue John Moore wrote up an article about the Piasa. We had been talking via e-mail for quite some time, and I recall our conversations on the bird and its somewhat dubious nature. Some of the particulars are a bit fuzzy, but he sent me some of the sources he was drawing upon for the article.
Anyway, most everyone is familiar with the particulars of how the Piasa pictograms were discovered by Father Jacques Marquette in 1673. His account of the first European sighting of the paintings, as given in the Recit des Voyages et des Decouvertes du Pere Jacques Marquette reads:
'...we saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made us afraid, and upon which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes. They are large as a calf; they have horns on their heads like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard like a tiger's, a face somewhat like a man's, a body covered with scales, and so long a tail that it winds all around the body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a fish's tail...here is approximately the shape of these monsters, as we have faithfully copied it.
Unfortunately, Marquette's depiction no longer survives. However, John reproduced with the article a copy of a drawing originating on a French map made by Jean-Baptiste Louis Franquelin in 1678, possibly copied directly from Marquette's sketch. The drawing depicts the Piasa more or less as it appears near Alton today; however, it has no wings (note that Marquette makes no mention of wngs in his account, either). The last reliable sighting of the original paintings was reported at the end of the eighteenth century, and it was noted that they had nearly disappeared then. Moore thinks it likely that the paintings may have entirely vanished by the beginning of the 1800s.
The fact is that many of the Native American tribes believed that a manitou, or spirit, called a Water Panther inhabited many rivers and streams. The water panther in traditional depictions is a long-tailed creature with four legs, sporting deer-like antlers. It supposedly haunted rapids, which were caused by the movement of its long tail. It could also move between bodies of water in the form of a meteor, and was also believed to be responsible for eclipses.
The traditional story of Chief Ouatago and the killing of the birds, originated from the pen of a man named John Russell, and did not appear in print until 1836. In fact, Russell's own son reported that "his father at one time confessed to him that the legend of the Piasa Bird was the product of imagination coupled with Marquette's account."
The only truly mysterious part of the tale, then, seems to be the derivation of the name 'Piasa' itself. Moore feels it may have derived from the French pailissa (palisade), a word often used to describe bluffs such as the Alton rocks. I felt that the name may have derived from pesshu or bizhy (Missipesshu and Micibizhy were two names used for Water Panther spirits). Given the similarity of the above Maori tale, it may even be that the name was derived from that bird's name, Poukai (its variant Pouaka is even closer to Piasa).
Moore's thesis in the article was that the Piasa, far from being a bird as traditionally thought, was only a spiritual depiction and in all likelihood never represented a real biological entity. Personally, I find this theory to be much more tenable than the truly chimerical flying monster depicted in the minds of many.
The most distressing part in my mind is the fact that, upon reviewing the source material, we find that just such a 'Piasa-as-spirit' theory had been proposed as far back as an article by Indiana historian Jacob Dunn written in 1923 and the "Piasa Bird" fallacy has been circulated and propagated for nearly 90 years! He also noted that one specific Water Panther - called Lennipinja by the Miami tribe of Ohio - was called, tellingly, l'Homme Tyger (man-tiger, or manticore) by the French. Further, Dunn noted that the Jesuit missionaries (of which Marquette was one) often wrote on the veneration given to the Water Panthers by natives and that Marquette notes a similar veneration of the Piasa.
IMAGES: Top is the early version of the Piasa from the 1678 Franquelin Map described in the text, and below it is a depiction of the water panther.
Posted by Jon Downes Friday, 25 September 2009 at 02:46
(First things first -- not all this research is mine. In fact, very little of it is, outside of the similarities with the Maori legend. However, it's not a very well publicized idea, though it is very likely to be the case and is possibly grounds for eliminating the famous Piasa Bird from the list of cryptozoological beings and as such, really should be put out there.)
Posted by Jon Downes at 02:41
It is amazing what small matters will entertain a man who is tied to his post and involved in a mind-numbingly boring activity. It fell to my lot to mow a 50 acre field of oats stubble.
For my readers who are not familiar with the process of farming and preparing land for the winter, what needs to be done to an oats field is that after the oats has been harvested in midsummer, the ground cover will return and grow, and with that comes weeds that will grow to a great height. These weeds must be cut off before they go to seed in early fall. So sitting in a tractor with circulated air conditioning, which means that if I was to try and dull my boredom by lighting up my beloved Marlboros and killing myself slowly, then the inside of the tractor would smell of the stale smoke for weeks. This would then lead to my non-tobacco-addicted relatives being very unpleasant to me for the next month or two. So in my almost suicidal boredom and homicidal withdrawals while I went from north to south and south to north mowing off the top of the green weeds, I noticed something very peculiar.
To the east of me across the blacktop road we have a large pasture with a creek running through it where half of our cattle herd is lodged in. These cattle are not exactly free range but have been exposed to predators at some points in their history. Keeping in mind that these cattle are totally domesticated, there should be nothing remarkable about their movement. I say that when you pay attention to what is going on you can see the true picture. The herd was composed of about 15 cows 17 calves and a herd bull; not a very large herd but quite sizable. I watched their movement and was amazed.
The herd formed a line with a matriarch at the front and fourteen cows walking two by two toward the creek to drink. The calves sheltered inside guarded by a full grown cow on either side with the herd bull bring up the rear. The matriarch drank first and moved to one side being watchful and the cows split off to each side and allowed the calves to drink and the bull finally drank. The herd then reversed its direction and crossed the pasture toward the feeder and moved in the same formation with the bull in the rear, head up and watching for predators.
The reason that this is so interesting is because of a theory of species memory that I have expressed in past Blogs. Domestic animals can revert to their wild habits even after they are completely domesticated and the movement of our cattle reminded me very much of an American bison herd or an African buffalo herd. It is remarkable how simple a matter will entertain a man who is tied to his post.
Domestic animals have not lost their natural instincts. When feral, dogs will form packs. As for hogs, it takes roughly a month for them to become completely wild and extremely dangerous. But if you watch a group of domesticated cattle moving in a pasture or a paddock if they have been together a reasonable time you should notice a distinct herd order, and the protective instincts of these normally docile beasts becomes very evident. The only reason that a beast can be caged is that he does not know his strength to shatter the bars with his breath.
Herd bulls remain very docile and easy to handle until they learn that they have the ability to make a man run. They are not controlled by fear or mastered by pain; they are kept such by their own ignorance but because these animals are not simple dumb creatures they become more intelligent with age and experience, and this is when they become dangerous.
It is my experience as a keeper of these creatures that the more feral a cow is during the breeding season; exposed to predators and weather and other natural influences; the better mother she will make when she calves with almost lioness-like devotion to her offspring. Much of the time have I been put up on a gate to avoid one of these massive animals in the calving barn after she has given birth and attempting to defend her calf. I have also witnessed a cow giving birth in an open field on frozen ground and then shortly after walking the calf slowly back to the rest of the remaining mothers who have not yet had calves, which makes for great difficulty in extracting this pair from the heard because of the natural protective devices put into place by their species memory and given wild behavior. It actually can be a rather dangerous affair.
I do not know if my readers will find this as fascinating as I do but it is a testament to the wonder of the natural world even in domesticated animals.
I also have some other bovine related news that may be more interesting. We own another pasture , which is much more wooded and has not only a crew but a pond and is actually at the top of a glacier-cut valley with half of the valley floor following a third of this property. The valley is full of trees, bushes and thorns; swampy parts and springs, and other valleys inside of the valley itself with a very flat portion at the top that makes up most of the pasture but along the valley walls at the foot of the plateau. Approximately a week prior to the day in question we had counted the cattle and filled the feeder with oats. Upon our return to this pasture we made a count of the cattle and found one calf to be missing. I use the word 'calf' very loosely because this one was actually 6 months old and very close to 600lbs, it could be estimated based on my father’s knowledge of his animals. So after searching the pasture from top to bottom, stumbling into a quicksand pit, being ripped apart by thorns and seeing parts of my own property that I did not even know existed, we decided that it was best to start looking for a carcass after the better part of 3 hours. We got into the pickup truck and went on the road to the lower entrance of the pasture and drove from the feeder in the valley floor to an area where the creek cut under the fence. So after going to the bend in the creek and finding nothing I looked down to my feet and found what appeared to be a bone from a large animal’s leg. And I followed the trail of bones that extended in a circle of about 20 meters in diameter until I reached a shade tree at the bend of the creek.
Here I found some ribs and a skull. In no more than 7 days a 600 lb animal had been reduced to nothing but hair in the mud, scattered bones and a pile of sour oats that once had been the contents of its stomach. I called out to my father and showed him my discovery. We deduced that the unlucky animal had over eaten of the grain in the feeder and had gone looking for water. Upon drinking the water it had began to bloat as the dry grain swelled in its stomachs and it had finally died in the place I had found the skull. This area was not remote at all and much danger and trouble could have been saved if we had looked in the most easily accessible spot. Due to the rain that had recently been had in the area I could find no sign of predation in tracts and in examining the bones I was unable to find any strange marks of predation. However, this pertains to cryptozoology in that in no more than 7 days, in a very accessible area, under less than extreme conditions, a carcass between 400 and 600lbs was reduced to nothing but scattered bones and hair in the mud, and a skull that was being eaten away by rodents for the calcium. Under these less than extreme conditions if an animal of this size can all but disappear in a time space of no more than 7 days, how quickly would such carcasses of unknown animals disappear into the earth again?
I hope than I have been able to entertain if not educate my readers on the attempts of a madly bored man attempting to maintain his sanity, finding fascination in simple things, as well as discovering proof that large animals can disappear in a very short time.
I will continue on the track of mystery animals as the CFZ Illinois Operator but I am also very excited to enjoy the natural world in the month of October from the height of a tree stand in the Deer woods of Illinois. Please get in touch with me if there is anything around the CFZ that might require my talents as a woodsman.
Posted by Jon Downes Sunday, 13 September 2009 at 04:14
I hope that my readers with forgive my long absence from the CFZ bloggo.
It is amazing what turns up when you are not looking for it. My father and I were working on the family farm's well shaft, which had a broken pipe, and I saw this salamander that looked larger than any I had ever seen. So I collected it for identification. It measured 11 inches. Also what makes this discovery of mine unique is that according to the University of Illinois there has never been a tiger salamander captured, photographed or documented in away way in my county or 3 other counties in my area and 1 county to the west of mine so 5 counties in total. The max. growth of the tiger salamander is 13 inches. I must say that I find a lot of irony in that I found this beautiful creature in a well shaft much like Sir John Lampton and his famous Worm!
I am doing my best in what little I can to support the CFZ. However, when there is no news I cannot make things up. I hope that my writings will be more frequent . I have also attempted to use my YouTube channel to generate some revenue in donation to the CFZ. I am unsure if that has been at all successful but I will continue to do my level best on the track of mystery animals.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Friday, 3 April 2009 at 03:36
Well, CFZ, as it is spring in my country it is cold and wet and dreary and cold. I have done more stomping through muddy cattle yards and carrying calves into the barn than I care to recall and I am beginning to feel a bit like James Herriot.
Also, our power has been off more than I care to remember, causing me and my family to have to manually bail water from our sump pump hole in the basement into our sink to avoid having a flooded basement. So with all of that, and my large-predator sightings currently on a dry spell, I have had no reason to write. However, I have decided to write on something that I have wanted to address for quite some time. Now I will not pretend to be a complete expert, but the idea of woodcraft on an expedition seems an important one to me.
A few rules and suggestions for anyone who is thinking of doing an excursion for cryptids.
Remember that you are hunting this creature, so act like a hunter. Only talk when it is necessary and quietly. Try as best you can to move into the wind. Most animals, mammals especially, use scent as a defense against their enemies. Also, select the correct attractant scents, such as finding big cat oestrus urine, or dominant big cat urine, for example, because a male big cat will investigate a female in heat. Also, if there is a strange cat scent in their territory they will come in to drive the other cat out. Also on the topic of scents, use cover scent such as pine and earth or acorn scent if you can aquire it.
Try and be as low-impact on the environment as you can. When walking a trail be on the look-out, watch in front, to your sides and behind you. Don’t be jaded with the forest or environment. Treat everything as if it is important because a broken branch could hold the key to finding the cryptid or leaves stripped off onto the ground as if by a hand. Remember you might be hunting something that might just be hunting you as well. If possible be prepared to defend yourself from whatever you might meet.
Back on the topic of scent: be sure to be very conscious of leaving your scent while setting a camera trap. Wear camouflage, but be sure to have radio contact to ensure that no one gets lost because if you get lost in camo you're very hard to find. But remember that you want to be invisible to all the cryptid's senses: sight, hearing, smell and you really want to make sure they never get to taste you. You can build up brush to funnel the animals in front of the camera trap along a game trail. However, be careful about leaving your scent on the brush.
Also, when setting a camera trap for, say, a big cat, use a meter stick and paint it with the scent, placing it in front of the camera, because if a big cat or any animal comes to investigate the scent it will be photographed next to or beside the stick as it smells it, that gives the picture a known item of reference so that the picture's credibility cannot be questioned. You should always have an item of known size in the picture to ensure that anything in the picture can be said to be of known size to ensure that it is not simply a house cat or something else.
I think that as I have said in other writings if the cryptozoological community acted more like hunters more success might be enjoyed. However, I will not claim to know what I am talking about.
Also, I do not think it would be a bad idea (though I do not know the legalities in other parts of the world you will forgive me for being an ignorant American) to add a predator call to the battery of arms and a hunting blind, which is basically a hide; a camo' tent that you sit in while waiting for game. A predator caller is an electronic device that projects the sounds of dying animals over great distances that is used to great affect by American hunters. So I would like to suggest perhaps, however safety might be an issue, of setting up at night inside of a hunting blind with a predator call and some lights in hopes of luring a large predator into the call with in camera range. However, camera range might be dangerously close to the animal.
So I hope that some of this information (if I dare call it wisdom) is helpful to the CFZ. I was once told that you can get smart from books, but before you can get old and wise you have to be young and stupid. And if you live through being young and stupid, and make it to being old you must have picked up some wisdom along the way.
I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for more cryptid things in Illinois but unfortunately, as I said, my sightings have died out. But I am working on building a network of informers on the cryptid and dark parts of Illinois.
But as for now I am trying to finish my schooling and make something of myself and survive.
There is a phrase that says, “never let a cowboy make the coffee” and why is that? Because I find that if you dump the grounds back into the cup and you can stand to drink it, it gives very good results. I am currently going on being awake for 42 hours as I write this and I wanted to take the opportunity to write while I still have power to run my laptop, as when the power is off and our generator is burned out and in the repair shop, we have to, as I said earlier, manually bail the water out of the sump hole into the sink. So I hope that all is well with the CFZ and I will continue on the track of mystery animals in Illinois as best I can.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 07:10
However, I feel that in the short time I have been working for the CFZ I have uncovered many more credible reports that never made it to official record. Also, in such circumstances, I feel that reports that did not make it to official record are possibly more credible because it shows that the eyewitness is not seeking fame for their sighting. According to the sightings map there is a very dense accumulation of Big Cat evidence in Missouri.
However, the article calls the range of the western U.S. the traditional range, which I take to mean the modern traditional range because until their alleged extermination on the east side of the Mississippi River, stories of Appalachian Mountain cougars were very common. So, there was an eastern U.S. range of the mountain lion. There is a dot of note on the map in southern Illinois in the region occupied by (you guessed it) the Shawnee National Forest.
So, even though the article focuses more on the expansion of the western mountain lion, as seen in the recent jaguar incidents, it is not uncommon for big cats to roam vast distances and not to be cut off by rivers. So, as the great plains and Midwest population grows, it is only a matter of time before they are crossing the Mississippi again. However, it is my belief that the mountain lions are, as I have said repeatedly, a relic population that may have occasionally been visited by members of the western mountain lion.
I was also contacted by an eyewitness who was a relation to a young man who is a recent addition to the CFZ. This sighting is about 2 years old. The man’s grandmother encountered a normal tan mountain lion while she was on a morning walk. It was watching her from the brush and, luckily for her, once she saw it, it lost interest in her and took off into the brush. I would guess that the big cat was around 100 yards away from her, which is no great distance for a big cat to cover if it had wanted to. So, this grandmother headed back to her house and was very rattled. She also told me of a sighting two miles away of a black mountain lion near a rural family farm. She said that the farmer heard something outside and went to have a look at what it was and saw this huge black cat pulling one of his hunting dogs up a treat. However, when he went in to get his gun the cat had gone, leaving the dead dog up in the crotch of the treat.
However, I mentioned the possibility of black leopards having escaped from circuses, or exotic pets released into the wild, possibly breeding with a relic population of mountain lions in the Southern part of Illinois’ more wooded areas. And as unlikely as this might be when compared with the relic population and lack of fresh genetics producing a black color to the cats. Dragging a kill into a tree is very much leopard behavior. And all of the tree kill caches that I have heard of have been black cats. So not to say that it could not be a trait of the Eastern Mountain lion because they had not been studied very much before they were to all appearances wiped out. So, I am unsure of this behavior’s roots, but it sounds very much like leopard behavior to me or even unknown unstudied mountain lion behavior. Therefore, it is unknown to me.
Even if the population of mountain lions east of the Mississippi river is displaced Black Hills cats, I think that it could be instinctive memory. Much like how elephants know where water is even if they have never been in a place before. Almost like human mythology or race memory of places and events and why we identify with our history. These animals could feel an instinct to reclaim their old home range. Not to get all New Age, but the idea of species memory in Forteana should not be a foreign concept, considering the other crazy theories put forth on a daily basis.
I am pleased to see, but not particularly shocked, that the jaguar is reclaiming its home range, as shown in a recent bloggo posting, and it is not particularly surprising that they are not seen very often. This is an intelligent animal and a predator designed to be able to keep out of sight as if invisible. Because it was hunted to the brink of extinction (not by sport hunters, but in the manner that the Tasmanian wolf was killed off) I believe that there could be a species memory of mankind and our destructive nature warning it to avoid humans. So I am not shocked at why the Northern Mexican jaguar is rarely seen and even more so rarely seen in the American South West. But because we cannot see an animal does not mean that it is not there, it could simply mean that we are out classed by the animal and it is one step ahead of us on the track of mystery animals.
So, it is not much, but it is the best I have been able to come up with recently in this dry spell of freezing weather and high winds. So thank you for reading and I will attempt to post more often as my schooling schedule allows. It almost feels as though my bloggo should be sponsored by Folgers coffee and Marlboro cigarettes. So that’s all for now from Cryptid Illinois.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Sunday, 8 February 2009 at 11:49
I am a hunter and for right or wrong, I have had a gun in my hand from the time I was 12 and I have been trying my best to live the American dream but I have been out in the forest from as far back as I can remember. I am a conservationist but those who have read my past writings will know by now that I am an avid hunter.
- Allowing a legally and strictly controlled harvest of a small quota of animals of a population at a designated fee provides revenue for the purchase of more land for the population to grow on.
- The Jobs created by the controlled harvest of an animal provides jobs to those who might otherwise poach for a living or turn to other perhaps similarly sinister crimes against the world.
- When a sport hunter harvests an animal that he has not only paid to hunt with no guarantee of achieving his trophy, he also provides a ready source of meat for the locals, and nothing is wasted.
- The hunter him or herself might not use what is taken, but the locals do! The bone is ground into fertilizer, the meat is eaten and as I said already the other parts of the Safari provide paying work for the locals.
- A Hunter should and most due attempt to take their animal in the most humane and fair chase way that they can, and equally importantly they strive to only take animals past their breeding maturity when they are no longer contributing to the gene pool. I know personally several professional Hunters currently working in Africa and some of them are also based in America.
Sport hunting however distasteful it may appear to some, is actually not the enemy of the natural world. The Enemy of the Natural world is actually militant poachers and corporate Deforestation! Which are two things that NO hunter agrees with!
I have already mentioned Kenya, however I would also like to put forth a case study of South Africa where sport hunting, and hunting in general is legal but strictly controlled. In the country of South Africa the large and small animals are thriving because of hunter’s dollars and proper management. The White Rhino can be legally harvested at an extremely high fee with no actual guarantee of a harvest , and the white Rhino Population is not only stable but is growing because the money generated by the extremely controlled - and please let me stress again and again the harvest is extremely strictly - harvest, that provides habitat for not only the rhino but other animals who would also share that habitat.
The controlled harvest of game by sport hunters helps contribute to conservation in South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In Namibia there has been an extremely controlled harvest of the lately endangered black rhino in very recent years, with a drawing, which means a hunter buys a chance and there is not only no guarantee that the animal would be harvested but there is also no guarantee that the sportsman will even be chosen for the hunt, and the revenue generated has been used to buy more habitat and contribute to more conservation efforts.
By extremely controlled in this usage I mean no more than 3 black rhino per year or less as determined by conservation officials.
Sport hunting when done correctly and ethically under legal sanction contributes to the conservation of the natural world because it provides not only a primal experience of human past as well as the knowledge that you are contributing to the active conservation of renewable natural recourses.
Now! Do not take away from this that I think sport hunting is the end all answer, I do not think this. I do not believe that we should delist critically endangered species such as the tiger. There is a difference between Conservation and Preservation, and a species must be preserved before it can be conserved.
The purpose of this article has been to explain my view which I have done to my best ability, and in truth SCI (Safari Club International), is one of the largest conservation organizations in the world. So before you totally condemn the sport hunter, understand that in their own way, they are making a contribution to the same cause.
I have written on this topic because it is one that I have had to constantly explain, and I find that very few people outside of the sporting community understand how hunting contributes to conservation. I wanted to express my view in an area that might not be friendly to the idea, but the more people can be helped to understand the more people can work together. So I hope you have read this article with an open mind, and that I will not be ostracized by the CFZ, but I do not try and force my way of life on anyone and I ask that they also respect my view in turn.
I am currently low on sightings and reports of unknown animals in Illinois and that is why this writing finds its way onto the page. But I will continue on the track of mystery animals in Illinois and around the world with the mindset of not only a Naturalist but a conservationist and a hunter. So thank you for reading and I hope the next time I write I will have something more cryptozoologically oriented.
Posted by CFZ: Cryptozoology Online Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 09:45
Shortly after I entered the room I spotted a high-school friend, who - after I questioned him - gave me some interesting information. Kyle was able to tell me about not only of a mountain lion sighting but also a possible readily-available source of food for the animals. Kyle told me that he was traveling east on Illinois Route 116 late at night, and he witnessed a big cat what appeared to be a tan-coloured cougar at the side of the road. It was dragging a road-killed deer, and as he passed the mountain lion, he saw it move quickly away from the road with its food and drag the carcass across the ditch and into the woods. This brings forth the idea that in addition to plenty of land and live game, the population of large mysterious predators could easily find a food source provided by the highways with road-kill.
The next person I interviewed was a friend of my Father. His name was Dennis, and he is a farmer in the area as well as being a local deer hunter. Dennis told me of how about 15 years ago he had been hunting during shotgun season and saw a black mountain lion crossing the game trail about 50 yards down the trail from him. Dennis couldnʼt remember exactly when he saw it and unfortunately I cannot remember what part of the locality that he saw it. But he also told me about sheep that had been killed in a very particular way and partly eaten. These sheep had been killed about 25 years ago. Unfortunately the locality is still somewhat sketchy. I do not mean to taunt my readers with false hope, but Dennis did think he could possibly help provide the CFZ with credible pictures of a Mountain lion from my area.
In my area of Illinois it seems to be common wood lore that Mountain lions inhabit the state and every one I asked had 1 of 3 answers. "NO your crazy", "Yes I have seen them", or "No I have not seem them but I have heard of them all my life".
When I asked Dennis about the Shawnee Forest theory, he told me that he went to school down by there for college in his younger days, and up until as recently as 30 years ago, the Shawnee forest was totally impenetrable totally full of swamps and bottoms and glens with thick brush and tall trees. Dennis also told me about another interesting bit of information that Farrell hogs and Farrell Horses that live in the trees and bogs. So in addition to the already plentiful game there is still another food source. Dennis told me with as deep and as thick as the Shawnee forest is he sees no reason why the isolated relic population theory would not stand. He also believes that there could very well be a population of the recently rediscovered black bear.
Later that night, I spoke with another witness but his name escapes me at the moment, and he told me about seeing a pair of mountain lions while in his deer stand. And how he too could tell me where to look. He knew someone who might be able to produce credible trail camera photos. The man confided to me that he was looking for somebody to talk to because he had talked to the Illinois DNR and they told him to keep his mouth shut. The man also told me that he believed the Shawnee population theory as well. He also believed that near Henry, Illinois there was a surviving pack of great lakes wolves.
So I managed to come up with some interesting stories from the hunterʼs meal but the strange stories of uncanny carnivores seem to be common wood lore for most country folk. As I am relating interesting stories I have some more stories.
After making a post to a hunting group, no-one had any knowledge of mountain lions, but bobcats seem to be coming out of the wood work literally here with local raccoon hunters in Illinois constantly running them up trees or catching them in traps. As I have said before, the bobcats in Illinois started out as shady deer camp stories told by hunters enjoying a beer after a long day, but now they appear to have not only taken a foothold in Illinois but that they are a thriving population.
I also got a very interesting response to a video that I posted on youtube about my involvement with the CFZ. The young man Cory told me about how he was about 13 he was on an ATV on his familyʼs land near their timber when he ran something tan move out of the field toward the woodline and he thought it was a deer because of its size but then he saw the tail and knew it was a cougar when it stopped at the edge of the field about 50 feet in front of him, and he could clearly see it was a cougar. He says he turned around and rode away making sure it did not follow him away from the place. Orchardville was the place of this sighting. Cory also told me that everyone in his family had seen the cats black and tan big cats, and he may be able to get a hold of trail camera pictures of the face of a cougar. I will be reviewing any pictures with a fine tooth comb to insure their authenticity.
With what I know about predator biology and animal behavior some of these sightings could be the same animal because the Puma has a large range and could easily cover 20 miles in one day. So the actual population density is very uncertain.
Some other interesting stories to come out of my recent research also include more support for the sasquatch population that could survive in the swamps and trees of the Shawnee forest. Another cryptid that could exist in the Shawnee is escaped or released captive large snakes along with possible populations of American Alligator that may have come up the Mississippi river and survived the temperatures by hibernation in the bogs and wetland of the Shawnee forest. I have heard stories of hunting dogs being dragged under water by alligators. Though I do not have proof of the stories I would not be surprised. Also I have heard rumors of a 'gator body that was found in the swamp.