Friday, July 19, 2013

Waxahachie Camera Project: July Update

Over the 4th of July weekend I managed to get up to Waxahachie to check on my game cameras. To refresh everyone, the property owners have had some problems with a predator of some kind. There are two horses and a mule on the property and two of the three have suffered injuries, some rather severe, on their faces and necks at one time or another. So far, no animals have been lost but the owners, as you might imagine, are quite anxious to find out just what is responsible for the injuries to their animals.

The property has a history of big cat sightings. The property owners claim to have seen both a regular-colored mountain lion and a large black cat on the property. The cats have been spotted in close proximity to the house which leads the owners to speculate that one or more of these cats is the likely culprit.

The property owner shared a story with me just a week or so ago that adds credence to the idea that big cats frequent the property. The following is the property owner’s recounting of a conversation with a neighbor in her own words:

“Last night as I arrived at the gate, the mares in the pasture across the street ran to meet me and neighed in some excitement. I know the heat is taking a toll and that they have only a pond to drink from. So, I came on home to put up groceries and had dinner, waiting for it to cool a tad... then I DROVE up, so I would be safer than walking.

Though the mares still have pond water, it is looking gross and the grass is short and drying up. I brought them each a flake of hay. I know they get water from the landowners now vacated house, so I went to get the hose from them. First I had to battle an ant's nest that was built in the hollow metal tool...(luckily I knew this and brought bug spray). Unfortunately I discovered the water meter was locked. Just then, the landowner arrived, a lady I have spoken to only a couple of times in 2 years.

I explained my presence and added........... ‘I don't know if you are aware of this or not, but we have a big cat problem out here, and I thought I ought to warn you.’ To this, she replied, (Please read this with your best Texas drawl, as that is how it was said) ‘Now, which one? The mountain lion or the jaguar? The mountain lion is scared of people. When I saw him, I popped of a shot and he took off. We hear the mountain lion sometimes, but we've only seen him once.’ (Mind you, I am standing quietly, and shocked... just listening and wanting as much info as she will share.) Then she says... ‘The jaguar doesn't come up here. He just stays in that tree line by the pond.’ I say, ‘Yes, that tree line is 50 yards from my door and that pond is also.’ She said, ‘Yes it is... better carry a weapon all the time. That is what **** did anytime she went outside." (**** was the former owner of this house).

She went on to tell me that the black cats have always been here. She said she personally has not seen one, but then named all of her family members that have seen it...always in that treeline/pond area). They can see it from their house (about a 1/4 mile away), so you know it is big. She said, ‘You probably don't need to worry about it during the day... they hunt at night.’ I said, ‘Didn't anyone see it during the day?’ She replied, ‘Daddy use to tell me he would see it laying in the shade at that old silver barn.’ Ummm, that is the horse shelter......... No wonder we have a problem. And I am surprised no one thought to warn us.”

While I’ve seen little in the way of evidence to support the theory of a large cat on the property, I do believe the property owner is telling the truth. Three members of the family claim to have seen a big cat of one kind or another and their stories match up well. I have seen the mule “alert” to the possible presence of a predator (this was detailed in an earlier post) and I have seen what I feel strongly is the scat of a fairly large cat near a pond on the property. I’ve also seen the wounds to the horses and mule first hand. Of course, I can’t say for sure what caused the injuries but some of them have been quite nasty and deep.

Unfortunately, my cameras failed to provide any photographic evidence of a truly big cat. I did get a lot of pictures of hogs, raccoons and fox but no “panther” of any kind. I did get some photos of a big bobcat this time around. I suspect that this bobcat is responsible for the scat previously found in the area. The scat is big but not as large as I would expect from a cougar or jaguar-sized cat.

I now have both cameras watching what we’ve nicknamed “Pig Pond.” This is a vital watering hole for the wildlife in the area and has proven a good spot to get photos. I’m hoping that by increasing the amount of camera coverage at the pond we will get the shot we all hope to see.

For now, though, all we can do is be patient and wait.

1 comment:

  1. Even in very dry conditions, there should be visible paw tracks in the dirt. Especially around the muddy waters edge of the pond. Granted the pigs will destroy a lot of the evidence but some tracks should survive....