Mystery Cat near Needlerush

There have been reports of cats on Dewees for years– a large panther sized black cat, a bobcat, etc.  However, we haven’t had proof that could be shared, like scat or tracks.  This morning, Gary paused on Needlerush walkway to watch a pair of deer off to the south.  He suddenly noticed that the deer were being stalked by a large cat, crouching and moving across the boardwalk.  His first impression was that it was a bobcat, but more reddish with some spots.  The cat eventually startled and moved off into the maritime forest to the south.

Last night’s heavy rain had rendered the sand hard-packed and textured with raindrops, and when we got there 15 minutes later, the tracks were still very clear.  Our first impression was that this is a BIG animal– the tracks are huge.  (We used a quarter in the photos to give a sense of scale.)  In addition, there are two sizes of tracks– one smaller and one larger.  We aren’t sure if the front and back paws are different sizes, or if the texture of the sand or the speed of the animal made a big difference.

After convincing Ed from public safety to let me scour the naturalist supplies for plaster of paris, (unsuccessfully) we called the Mashmans, who actually had some plaster, and they came out to help us make casts of the tracks.  Photos are one thing, but a 3 dimensional cast is another.

Carly helps mix the plaster
making plaster casts

Kudos to Darlene, who came prepared with measuring implements and a plastic bag to mix in.  We’re also really glad of her suggestion that we practice with the less desirable tracks so we could learn what consistency works best. It was interesting that as the sand warmed and began to dry out, the tracks became less distinct.

So we had a great time pouring plaster into the tracks, and we left it there for at least an hour to dry.  We returned to retrieve them and voila!  We can even see the claws on one of them.  Can’t wait to share with Lori and DNR to see what they are thinking.

one of the smaller tracks
great casts!
claws

Lori sends us these links:

http://www.bear-tracker.com/cougar.html

http://www.bear-tracker.com/caninevsfeline.html

http://www.bear-tracker.com/bobcat.html

http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10370_12145_43573-146656–,00.html

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Fred Schwaibold

    I believe that I have seen this cat approximately 8 weeks ago on the path to Caper’s Inlet. I saw a large, reddish animal, larger than a big dog, but smaller than a deer. I was about 250 yards away and it was dusk. As soon as the cat saw me turn toward him, he bolted; therefore, I think we’re safe 🙂

  2. reggiefairchild

    Gary reported that the animal he saw was a reddish / brownish color, perhaps with blacks spots.

  3. judydrewfairchild

    September 2: On our way to the beach for a turtle inventory, we noticed the large feline tracks in the swale again. After the inventory, Trent McDevitt called me to tell me that he had been to the beach after we left, and his flashlight caught a sparkle from what he thought was a large reflector from a turtle nesting sign. When he explored further, he found himself staring into the eyes of a very large cat. The cat was about 50 yards away, and stared at him for a minute before turning and disappearing into the brush. He described it as enormous (3+ feet long), with a long tail.

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