Tan Blur

Charlie McCracken of Greenfield sort of got lost in the shuffle, buried deep in my clogged Outlook Express Inbox, after coming forward with another Pioneer Valley cougar sighting. Upon receiving it, I read and red-flagged it, planning to revisit it in this space before it got buried.

”I always enjoy cougar-sighting articles and have to chuckle at the ‘disclaimers,”’ McCracken wrote, ”because I had one run in front of my service truck while delivering propane tanks to summer camps in the early 1990s at Damon Pond in Chesterfield/Goshen.”

The indelible impression was the long tail with a big ball of black fur at the end. In fact, because it all happened so fast, that’s all he saw clearly.

The way McCracken recollects it, he was delivering 100-pound tanks ”one bright, sunny afternoon in May” when a big, tan blur streaked in front of his Ford 350. He remembers thinking, ”Wow! That was a big dog or deer,” but it ran like a big cat and stood as high as the headlights on his one-ton truck. He knew then that the animal was much larger than his 80-pound dog.

”All I got a good look at was the big haunches and the long tail with a ball of black fur on it,” he wrote. ”It was no photo-op.”

He slowly got out of his truck to investigate the space between two summer camps where the cat ran, but it was gone.

Chalk it up as more fuel for the fire. Certainly not an acceptable sighting to wildlife experts, but still worth adding to the list of local folks with no reason to lie who think they’ve seen a cougar.

”Cougar sightings are nothing new around here,” a major Whately landowner and avid hunter who’s pushing 80 told me last week in his pasture. ”People have been reporting them for more than 60 years.”

And the authorities always have the same response: ”Eastern cougars are extinct.”

Maybe so.

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