CPW, Sheriff’s Office has yet to find evidence of a feral cat in Fort Morgan, despite continued reports from residents – The Fort Morgan Times
Morgan County Sheriff Dave Martin weighed in on ongoing reports of a big cat in Fort Morgan.
He confirmed Thursday that his office was dispatched to assess the situation on Thursday, May 5 at around 5:15 p.m. The caller, whose dog was also missing, reported hearing the sound of an animal in distress.
Martin said his officers did not write a report because they did not find any animals at the time. Instead, it was forwarded as a “help another agency” call and was referred to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office in Brush.
“Our office was sent there and we referred it to the Wildlife Division,” Martin said. “Our dispatcher wrote (“Wildlife Division notified by phone”) in there, so I assume the dispatcher is the one who notified them at the request of the officers.”
Wildlife Division game warden Todd Cozad said he traveled to the area to investigate the situation on his own after receiving numerous reports and hearing stories from residents about the wild animal resembling a cat.
“When I went to the area, I could never see anything, any kind of evidence or any kind of big cat,” he said. “The only type of close physical evidence I could see were the fingerprints on Ed Nestor’s Spa Cover, and at the biggest, it would be a bobcat. There was no physical evidence of any kind.
He said some locals had sent him pictures of animal tracks in the mud, but they are just dog tracks. In his search for evidence, Cozad even contacted the Fort Morgan Veterinary Clinic to verify if any animals had been brought in with injuries from a wildlife attack. As of May 12, there have been snakebites, but no other wildlife injuries have been reported to the veterinary clinic.
Cozad also commented on the video taken from a resident’s home security footage.
“As far as the video goes, I don’t think the sound is necessarily a (mountain) lion. It might not even be a bobcat. I’ve seen raccoons make sounds like this when I’ve had them at the end of a sinking pole. And even opossums from time to time. So, I don’t know what it was, but I even sent the video to some of our other wildlife officers who deal with mountain lions very regularly, and all of them even concluded that (the sound) doesn’t is not a) lion in this video,” Cozad said.
Cozad also pointed out that the behavior of the dog – misidentified as the animal in question in a May 11 Fort Morgan Times article – in the video would not have been as calm if there had been a mountain lion or a mountain lion. another big cat nearby.
“I was in no way worried or convinced that there was a (mountain) lion there. We have had (mountain) lions here at Fort Morgan in the past. personally, and that’s why I was sure to (say) there was no physical evidence to show there was a (mountain) lion anywhere around,” Cozad said. I’m not just guessing…we just rely on physical evidence and (we have to) have evidence.”
Fort Morgan resident and local wildlife professional Celina Nissim also reached out to The Fort Morgan Times to share her personal expertise. Nissim holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Wildlife Biology from West Texas A&M University.
Also referring to Nestor’s video, she said: “Although the tracks do not show the claws, they are clearly domestic dog tracks. It is not uncommon for the claws not to show if the dog shows them. does get clipped regularly, like many pets.I’ve attached a figure that shows the difference between the two.Also, canine tracks usually show a strong ‘X’ shape when looking at the arrangement of the toes. The tracks on the spa cover are definitely a domestic dog.
Nissim continued, “Most likely the reason (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) said not to worry is that the evidence doesn’t seem to match a wildcat of any kind. Everything points to domestic dogs. If there are cats involved, they are probably strays. You’d be surprised how often a stray tomcat, or house cat in heat, is mistaken for a bobcat or even a cougar.
Despite the lack of concrete evidence required by the MCSO and CPW to act, residents of Fort Morgan continue to submit personal reports of their encounters with a large cat-like animal.
“Last week, I left (work) very late. It was about 2 a.m., and I saw a very strange animal that I couldn’t identify crossing the road here south of Legion Field. At first I thought it might be a coyote, but it moved a bit like a cat. And that thing had a really long tail, so I’m guessing it’s probably not a bobcat. if it’s the same animal. We’ve also found dead rabbits in our yard…on Indian streets,” Fort Morgan resident James Henry said in a phone call to the Fort Morgan Times.
Another resident, Aaron Dunihoo, reported seeing tracks all over his one-acre property.
“I’m a lifelong hunter, so I know what a cat track and a fox track and a coyote and a dog are. And it was none of them. I started looking into it, and it’s exactly the three-lobed track a mountain lion leaves. Not a bobcat either, a cougar. There (were) smudges everywhere and a clearly decent size, about (the size) of the top of an average coffee mug,” Dunihoo said.
On the night of Wednesday, May 11, around 11 p.m., he reported seeing the animal himself near Pioneer Elementary School. He and a friend tried to follow the animal with a flashlight before it ran away. They had a clear look, but unfortunately no pictures.
“The animal turned and looked at us, the gleam of its eyes… they were green-orange… It was clearly a mountain lion. I don’t care what they say, bobcat, whatever…it was a cougar. I saw it with my own eyes and so did my friend,” Dunihoo said. “It’s just a weird feeling having him around.”
He did not report the May 11 encounter to CPW because he knows he needs proof for them to do anything about the animal. He plans to return outside with his camera this week in hopes of capturing photographic evidence.
CPW Northeast Region Public Information Manager Jason Clay encourages residents who see wildlife to stay a safe distance, report the situation to the Wildlife Division, and take pictures or videos and detailed notes – including information such as height, coloring, demeanor, physical appearance (length of tail) – about the encounter, which could hopefully be used to corroborate and serve to side of a report as a type of physical evidence.