Port Franks cougar sighting – the proof is in the plaster

Port Franks resident feeds big cat that left paw prints in his garden

Story and photos by Casey Lessard

Port Franks resident Bob Rutledge is a friend to animals: he feeds 14 squirrels and a couple of raccoons on a regular basis. So it is only natural that another, larger animal would gravitate to him.
“I’ve been putting food out for the raccoons every night,” he says, describing his routine, “and they come around about 10 o’clock. There’s a big one and a small one. They have their feed and leave.
“Then I’ll put out a few more scraps in a pan and usually around 11 or 11:30, I end up with a big black cat there. He’s way too big to be a normal cat. He’s been around seven or eight times. He sits on my well, eats his dinner and disappears.”
Rutledge believes the animal is a cougar, which others in the area say they have sighted over the past year.
“It’s the black one,” he says. “It’s probably about three or three-and-a-half feet in length. One of my neighbours spotted a tan one at the corner of his house. The cougar’s main food is deer, and there have been an awful lot of those around this year, so they’re probably well-fed. They appear to be, because all of the small animals around here haven’t disappeared. ”
To date, no one has proof enough for wildlife authorities to confirm the animal’s identity. Now, Rutledge believes he has proof to confirm what he has seen with his eyes.
“Our daughter is getting married on the 5th of July, so we’re trying to get our yard ready. Saturday night, we put in some new soil and new grass, very loose. Overnight Saturday night, he walked down through the middle of it and we got an excellent set of paw prints. My neighbour Tony Miller came over and made some casts of it.
“It’s certainly a wild animal. It’s about three to four times the size of a domestic cat. The paw prints are five to six inches in length, and the pads were sunk down a good inch into the soft earth.”
Officials have told Rutledge they need DNA or other forensic evidence (hair, blood, saliva) before they can confirm anything, but for now, he is content to enjoy the view – from the safety of his home.
“I watch them from my kitchen window. It’s been interesting to sit and watch them. One day it went past in broad daylight. And it moves very rapidly.”