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Xia
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Lately there have been sightings of supposed mountain lions in Lake County... I think I heard someone on the news saying they've found tracks, but I'm not 100% sure.

Just a wild cat chase?

Cougar May Be Roaming Lake County

One woman called the police and said she was following a mountain lion in her car-- it turned out to be a coyote.

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Barns & No Bull
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I have been tracking this story for over a month [Wink]

If it is a cougar it is almost certainly an escapee or a released animal. I saw the photo that was taken last week on the local news. The game tracker that was part of the program stated that the photo didn't show enough detail to say anything definitive, but that he had a suspicion it was a coyote. The photo showed "something" in tall dead grass - but there was no way to make out its overall form really.

It would be more believable if we knew whether these sightings were truly independant. IOW, are people reporting sightings that have not already heard of previous sightings?

It is somewhat meaningful that tracking dogs have not picked up the scent even after very recent sightings. They should bring in some professional cougar tracking dogs (I think they use hounds) from out West. They would have that cat treed in minutes after a recent sighting.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There are regular reports of sightings of very large black cats (these would be leopard or jaguar) in the UK these days. AFAIK, there has been no definitive evidence that there really are any big cats there. It is possible that in both Lake County, IL. and the UK there is a case of "mass hysteria" or modern legend - combined with a desire to see the animal which turns any sighted animal (domestic or wild) into an exotic beast.

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Xia
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Actually, black panther sightings apparently happened in Illinois too, and probably other places... Seems it is a fairly common legend:
http://www.prairieghosts.com/ilpanthers.html


I just found an interesting article at the IL Acadamy of Science however.
Apparently a mountain lion was killed by a train in IL a few years ago:
Record of a North American Cougar from Southern Illinois


When I first heard about it I figured people were either mistaking dogs or large housecats for wildcats... I really don't see how someone could think a coyote was a cougar, but at least one person did!

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jynni
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Makes me think of some similar situations here in Kansas and Missouri. KS wildlife officals have been denying that there are any mountain lions in KS, but a friend's brother has one pestering his ranch in south central KS. It's killed three horses and I think a cow.

In MO there have been at least two mountain lions hit by cars in the past year or so. We also had a recent, although unconfirmed incident of a mountain lion that made off with a chihuahua. All of these have taken place in the Kansas City Metro and suburbs.

So since there are confirmed Mountain Lions in MO and Colorado, then I would assume KS would have them too. Of course my friend's info on the KS widelife association's official stance on mountain lions could be outdated.

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Barns & No Bull
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Big-cat tales and other mysteries

Chicago Tribune
July 22, 2004

3 months after reported sightings that couldn't be verified, Lake County's cougars evoke similar state myths of the past.


"Show me the hard evidence," Bartholomew said of the cougars. "Bottom line, there is no hard evidence."

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Rogue1stclass
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It's quite possible there are cougars there. They used to live there (and everywhere else in the Americas), after all, and they are making a comeback due to the cessation of bounty programs and the availibility of deer. I wouldn't doubt that they are refilling a lot of their former niches alongside the coyote, which for the last 30 years has been on it's way towards taking the wolf's place. Both of these animals, incidentally, will become more common as deer hunting declines in popularity.

I personally have seen a cougar (and a coyote) in a place where there weren't supposed to be cougars. They are pretty sly and secretive critters. They can potentially live in fair proximity to man without attracting attention.

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Barns & No Bull
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There is no evidence that the cougar is living in Illinois.

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Seeing Is Believing
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No cougars in Illinois! Here is an autopsy report of an adult male that was struck by a train in Randolph County (Illinois!).

Not to mention that I had a personal sighting yesterday along the edge of the Shawnee National Forest.

Transactions of the Illinois State Academy of Science received 4/10/01
(2001), Volume 94, #4, pp. 227-229 accepted 9/10/01
Record of a North American Cougar
( Puma concolor) from Southern Illinois
Edward J. Heist1, Jennifer R. Bowles2, and Alan Woolf2
1Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center
2Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory
1,2 Department of Zoology
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901
ABSTRACT
A cougar (Puma concolor) was recovered in the proximity of railroad tracks in Randolph
County, Illinois on July 15, 2000. A necropsy indicated that the cougar died from injuries
it received when struck by a train. The animal appeared to be in good health prior to
the accident, and no indications of captive rearing were observed. Genetic data were
used to verify that the cougar was of North American origin and not an escaped or
released cougar of South American origin. This is the first confirmed occurrence of a
cougar in Illinois in over 100 years.
INTRODUCTION
On July 15, 2000 officials of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources retrieved the
carcass of a cougar from Randolph County, Illinois. The native range of cougars stretches
from the Yukon to Argentina, and in North America from California to the Maritime
Provinces of Canada (Hansen 1992). While cougars were native to Illinois, predator
control efforts of the last two centuries and habitat alteration have extirpated cougars
from the entire Midwest (Hansen 1992). The last resident cougars were removed from
Illinois prior to 1860 (Danz 1999). The closest known cougar populations are in Texas
and Colorado. However, there is evidence for the existence of cougars in the Arkansas
Ozarks (Witsell et al. 1999) as well as eastern Kentucky and Tennessee (Nowack 1976)
and there have been recent unconfirmed cougar sightings in southern Illinois. Some cougars
found outside of their current range are escaped or released captive animals, and
many of those cougars are of South American origin.
In a recent study of 315 cougars from North and South America including 31 of 32 putative
subspecies, Culver et al. (2000) compared partial DNA sequences of several mitochondrial
genes. They found that cougars from North America are genetically homogeneous
and distinct from South American cougars. Only two mtDNA haplotypes were
found north of Panama, one of which was restricted to the Olympic Peninsula of the
Pacific Northwest. Cougars from Panama and South America are genetically more
diverse; however no South American cougar possessed either of the North American
mtDNA haplotypes. Thus mtDNA provides a reliable method of determining whether
228
the cougar killed in Randolph County Illinois was of North American origin, and therefore
potentially a wild cougar, or of South American origin and an obvious captive
release.
METHODS
The cougar carcass was frozen by IDNR personnel and shipped to Southern Illinois University,
Carbondale where a necropsy was performed. The animal was weighed and
measurements taken. The nature of the trauma to both external and internal anatomy
were noted. A piece of tongue was taken for genetic analyses.
Whole genomic DNA was extracted from tongue tissue using a commercial DNA extraction
kit (Quiagen Inc.). Portions of two mitochondrial genes (ATP-8ase and ND-5) were
amplified using primers described in Johnson et al. (1998). Each 50 µl PCR reaction
contained 5 µl 10X buffer (Promega Inc.), 65 ng cougar genomic DNA, 2 mM MgCl2,
and 2.5 picomoles of each PCR primer. PCR products were prepared for cloning using a
commercial kit (Quiagen Inc.), ligated into a TA cloning vector (Promega Inc.), and
cloned into DH5α competent cells. Miniprep plasmid DNA was obtained using a commercial
kit (Promega Inc.) and sequenced on an ABI 377 automated DNA sequencer.
Sequences were compared to published sequences from Culver et al. (2000).
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The cougar was a 226 cm long male with a tail length of 72.5 cm and a total weight of 50
kg. Based on a combination of cementum annuli and tooth wear criteria the cougar was
estimated to be a 4-6 year old adult. The head was nearly detached from the carcass
between the 2nd and 3rd cervical vertebrae, and was connected to the carcass by only a few
strands of dorsal skin. Findings were consistent with blunt trauma as a cause of death.
There was no indication that the cougar had recently worn a collar, nor was there wear on
the foot pads consistent with cage or pen habitation. Stomach contents included partially
digested material (skin, hair, bones) from a single white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
fawn. The cougar exhibited well-developed musculature and abundant visceral/
mesenteric fat.
DNA sequences at both mitochondrial genes were identical to those of haplotype “M”
reported as the common mtDNA haplotype in North American cougars by Culver et al.
(2000). Sequences of the Illinois cougar differed from all South American mtDNA
haplotypes by at least one substitution in the ATP-8ase gene and two substitutions in the
ND-5 gene. Thus the cougar killed by the train in Randolph County Illinois was of North
American origin and appears to have been successfully foraging in the wild prior to its
accidental death.
229
LITERATURE CITED
Culver, M., W. E. Johnson, J. Pecon-Slattery and S. J. O’Brien. 2000. Genomic ancestry of the
American puma (Puma concolor). J. Heredity 91:186-197.
Danz, H. P. 1999. Cougar! Ohio University Press, Athens Ohio. 310 pp.
Hansen, K. 1992. Cougar, the American lion. Northland Publishing, Flagstaff, AZ. 129 pp.
Johnson, W., C. Culver, J. A. Iriate, E. Eizirik, K. L. Seymour, and S. J. O’Brien. 1998. Tracking
the evolution of the elusive Andean mountain cat (Oreailurus jacobita) from mitochondrial
DNA. J. Heredity 89:227-232.
Nowack, R. M. 1976. The cougar in the United States and Canada. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
Washington, D. C. and the New York Zoological Society, New York. 189 pp.
Witsell, T., G. A. Heidt, P. L. Dozhier, T. Frothingham, and M. Lynn. 1999. Recent documentation
of mountain lion (Puma concolor) in Arkansas. J. Arkansas Acad. of Sci. 53:157-158.

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Barns & No Bull
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As I said, there is no evidence that the cougar is living in Illinois. That is a famous report of one being killed by a train in Illinois. That one is dead. There's no evidence of another, nor is there evidence of any meaningful population near Illinois. There are substantiated sightings and evidence from Missouri and Iowa - so that individual may have wandered here.

The recent sightings here in Northern Illinois have not been supportable. In some cases coyotes have been mistakenly identified as cougars by residents.

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Tangueray and Whine
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Coyotes mistaken for cougars? Man, some people really are dumb.

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Cletus_Quick
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I am in southern Madison county in Illinois. Not only has there been numerous repeated sightings of wildcats in this area by rural residents and farmers, but I have seen undisputable evidence. I personally have seen the hide of a cougar nailed to the wall inside a barn of a local livestock farmer. The cat was tormenting his herd, so he tormented the cat. There is a resurgance or immigration of wildcats in Illinois, that is a fact.
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Crafty
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quote:
Originally posted by jynni:
Makes me think of some similar situations here in Kansas and Missouri. KS wildlife officals have been denying that there are any mountain lions in KS, but a friend's brother has one pestering his ranch in south central KS. It's killed three horses and I think a cow.

In MO there have been at least two mountain lions hit by cars in the past year or so. We also had a recent, although unconfirmed incident of a mountain lion that made off with a chihuahua. All of these have taken place in the Kansas City Metro and suburbs.

So since there are confirmed Mountain Lions in MO and Colorado, then I would assume KS would have them too. Of course my friend's info on the KS widelife association's official stance on mountain lions could be outdated.

I remember hearing about some cougar sightings in Lawrence, KS earlier this year - looking at the Wichita Eagle archives (no link because you have to sign up to view the articles) - there were a bunch of sightings from 12/03 through 3/03 on and around the KU campus - but there was a lot of skeptecism.
Also, there was a dead one found in June just south of the KS border near Red Rock, OK - it had a tracking collar and apparently the last recorded tracking of it was from the NW part of the Wyoming Black Hills in September 2003.

I've heard various other stories of cougar sightings - but have yet to see anything showing proof of wild ones that were not transported illegally into the state, escaped pets, poached & dumped, etc. The one from Oklahoma was probably a poach & dump.

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Barns & No Bull
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quote:
Originally posted by Cletus_Quick:
I am in southern Madison county in Illinois. Not only has there been numerous repeated sightings of wildcats in this area by rural residents and farmers, but I have seen undisputable evidence. I personally have seen the hide of a cougar nailed to the wall inside a barn of a local livestock farmer. The cat was tormenting his herd, so he tormented the cat. There is a resurgance or immigration of wildcats in Illinois, that is a fact.

Welcome to snopes, Cletus!

There is no good physical evidence that cougars are here in Illinois. There was a rash of reported sightings in Lake County this spring and another group of sightings more recently in Lynwood which is in southern Cook County (could be the same cat). There is a news report that a paw print was found in Lynwood that resembles that of a big cat (over 70 lbs).

Bobcats are increasing in number and expanding their range in Illinois and nearby states. Same is true for coyotes.

Sightings of "wildcats" in your area could be bobcats, housecats, coyotes or dogs. All of those have been misidentified as cougars by people. That is not to say that an accurate sighting couldn't occur, but it is a fact that people have seen and photographed those animals and said it was a cougar.

If your story of the farmer with the cougar pelt is true as told it is VERY significant. There has only been one confirmed wild cougar in Illinois and it was killed by a train. That farmer should report what happened to Illinois DNR. But he will need to substantiate it somehow. They will be skeptical with good reason.

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christmas tree kitapper
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quote:
Originally posted by Barns & No Bull:
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There are regular reports of sightings of very large black cats (these would be leopard or jaguar) in the UK these days. AFAIK, there has been no definitive evidence that there really are any big cats there. It is possible that in both Lake County, IL. and the UK there is a case of "mass hysteria" or modern legend - combined with a desire to see the animal which turns any sighted animal (domestic or wild) into an exotic beast.

Well, on the "definitely have proof" side jaguars have been spotted in Arizona. [Smile]

kitap

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talk2sparky
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No cougars in Illinois! Why, this summer thousands of people saw 25 of them in Geneva, IL. link

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talk2sparky
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waffles

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M'eyari
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Funny, T2S. Very funny. [Smile]

Interesting. My older brother lived just outside of Decatur, IL for four years - I'll have to email him and ask if he or his wife saw anything while they were living there.

On the subject of big cats - oy. My husband and I are currently living on his family's land - it's about forty acres, mostly wooded. And out in the woods somewhere is a big black panther that some dumb arse tried to keep as an exotic pet and turned loose when it got to be too much trouble. [Mad] Now, the reason I'm mad is because there is a small zoo not even ten miles from where we live, and they would have been HAPPY to take the panther when his owner found out he couldn't handle him. Instead, the dumb arse dumped him out in the woods where he could be a very big threat to the humans here. (Btw, last time it was sighted was four years ago, so it's quite possible that it is dead now, or has moved on. But the thought that I'm not as safe as I should be when I go outside my home at night, because of someone else's thoughtlessness, really steams me.)

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Barns & No Bull
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quote:
Originally posted by kitap of the really, really dead:
Well, on the "definitely have proof" side jaguars have been spotted in Arizona. [Smile]

I love it. I hope they don't start eating cattle or that will be the end of the story.

This is new but not unique. There was an interesting story about 6 years ago in a magazine (was it Natural History or N'tl Geographic?) about a cougar hunter in Arizona who 'found' a jaguar. He was on a routine hunt with his hounds. The hunter turns the dogs loose on a scent and they follow the trail which obviously leads to a cougar. The dogs will tree the cat and mill around below it barking furiously. The hunter knows when they've reached the cat because their barking sounds change. Then they just shhot the cat right there in the tree. Sporting, eh? Well, the guy said he knew something was different and odd about the barking going on. When he reached the dogs he saw that they had 'cornered' a jaguar on a rocky point at the edge of a cliff. He was stunned! He also had a camera [Big Grin] He took pictures of the snarling jaguar right there on the rock. Those photos were published with his story. I seem to recall reading that it was the only confirmed jaguar in Arizona in decades.

That story must be somewhere on the Internet, but I'm too lazy at the moment to go hunting for it. Send the hounds!

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Barns & No Bull
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quote:
Originally posted by M'eyari:
And out in the woods somewhere is a big black panther that some dumb arse tried to keep as an exotic pet and turned loose when it got to be too much trouble. [Mad] ...(Btw, last time it was sighted was four years ago, so it's quite possible that it is dead now, or has moved on.

Was there any confirmatory evidence of the "black panther's" existence, or was it based on reported sightings?

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M'eyari
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Taken from the April 5, 1995 edition of the Flint Journal:
'Count Police Chief Steven Novak among the believers of the Montrose "panther." With four new sightings this past weekend, including one by township police officer Tammy Plumer, Novak said it no longer is a matter of if, but how many wild cats roam the area.

The sightings follow several reports of a cougar running loose in Flint Township. Residents reported seeing a large cat, 5 to 6 feet long, with a brownish-tan coat in the area of Corunna and Linden roads in..."

And that's where the Flint Journal's online archive cut off, and asked me to subscribe.

So yeah, so far all I've found in the local online archives are reported sightings of cougars in our area of Michigan, but not panthers. The inlaws have found a few pawprints on their land, but what proves it for me is that my husband saw it four years ago while he was out walking. About 4 in the afternoon, bright sunlight (well, as bright as you can expect in the middle of the woods). He said he was stopped for about ten minutes, just staring at it. He reports the big kitty as being as tall as a big German Shepherd, but much longer in the body, with a definitely cat-like tail. He also said that it stared back at him before losing interest and walking away, so he got a good look at its face.

I've been trying to find something other than family/neighbor reports on the darn thing, and haven't come up with much. I'll ask the inlaws tomorrow if anyone has a picture of the panther.

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christmas tree kitapper
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quote:
Originally posted by Barns & No Bull:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by kitap of the really, really dead:
[qb]

That story must be somewhere on the Internet, but I'm too lazy at the moment to go hunting for it. Send the hounds!

Here.

kitap

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Barns & No Bull
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quote:
Originally posted by kitap of the really, really dead:
Here.

Thanks. But that isn't it. The story is as I told it. The guy was hunting with dogs, they found the cat and he photographed it. It's even a contrary story to what is stated in the USFW link you posted which says this:

quote:
Until now, we had no full body photos of jaguars in the wilds of our state.
The photos this hunter took were of the full body.

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Barns & No Bull
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Thanks M'eyari,

So people were seeing both "black panther(s)" and cougar(s)?

You mentioned someone releasing a "black panther". Was this confirmed to have happened?

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Barns & No Bull
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OK, I just found a reference in MSN Encarta to the Arizona jaguar story I told. But I haven't found the story itself yet.

quote:
In 1996 a mountain lion hunter photographed a young male jaguar in southeastern Arizona and, in 2001 and again in 2003, a remote surveillance camera photographed a jaguar on the Arizona-Mexico border.
MSN Encarta: Jaguar

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christmas tree kitapper
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http://www.nwf.org/nationalwildlife/article.cfm?articleId=144&issueId=18 ?

http://www.hcn.org/servlets/hcn.Article?article_id=2897 ?


kitap

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Barns & No Bull
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quote:
Originally posted by kitap of the really, really dead:

http://www.hcn.org/servlets/hcn.Article?article_id=2897

There it is. But no photos shown [Frown]

quote:
Ten color pictures are featured in this memoir...


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M'eyari
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Barns & No Bull:
Thanks M'eyari,

So people were seeing both "black panther(s)" and cougar(s)?

You mentioned someone releasing a "black panther". Was this confirmed to have happened?

You're welcome, Barns. Apparently people have been seeing both cougars and black panthers in Michigan. 1995 was the earliest year of the Flint Journal that I could access online, so I don't know yet what was sighted before that year. The Journal had later reports of panther sightings (1997, I believe) in the Flint township, but none of the articles had any photographic evidence. When I checked the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website for articles, I couldn't find anything on black panther or cougar sightings in this state, though, interestingly enough, cougars ARE on Michigan's List of Protected Wildlife . This indicates to me that even if the DNR doesn't officially acknowledge that there are big cats in Michigan they have taken the sightings seriously.

Now, on our panther: Mr. M'eyari is the only person I've actually spoken to who got up close and personal with the cat; the tale of how it got into the wild was told to me by my inlaws, and when they told it to me two years ago they didn't state their sources. The only thing the father-in-law stated as actually having seen were the panther's pawprints - he stated that the prints were as big as the palm of his hand, which is about five inches across.

So, first order of the day tomorrow is to get ahold of the inlaws, ask them where/how they found out the big cat's origins, and ask if anyone got a photo of the cat. I was told the neighbors have spotted it, too, so if the inlaws don't have pics that means contacting the neighbors and seeing if Mr. M'eyari really was the only one to get a close look.

If the inlaws don't have any hard facts, I'm heading to the local library on Monday so I can look through their archive of the Flint Journal - it'll take longer, but now that I have the panther sitings narrowed down to 1995-1997 I should be able to find something. I hope. I really am curious now as to how much the inlaws told me is true-true, and how much is UL-true. (Though, since we're in the country, wouldn't this be a rural legend?)

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Barns & No Bull
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M'eyari,

There have been numerous reports of cougar sightings in LP Michigan besides the ones you mentioned. I do not believe there has been confirmation of these cats there. It is possible for state authorities to list protection for hypothetical animals, possibly from repeated sightings or the belief that one could show up in the state. I don't know if UP Michigan has had confirmed cougars, which could be another basis for the listing.

The reason I have been putting quotations around "black panther" is because the name is non-specific. "Black panthers" are either black leopards or black jaguars. Both are large spotted cats but there is a somewhat rare melanistic form of each that is all-black.

I think it's great that you have taken an interest and are going to do some local research. Before you head out, read these snopes threads:

Here

Here too

Here as well

And even here

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M'eyari
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Thanks again, Barns. The reason I've been saying "black panther" is to distinguish it from the Florida Panther/Cougar. I also know that "panther" or "painter" is slang for "cougar" in some parts of the States (Florida and Lousiana, I believe, though I could be wrong). I've ruled out Mr. M'eyari's cat as being anything other than an escaped black leopard because the only other thing it could have been was a cougar with an excellent dye job. [Wink] I've also never met a housecat that was the same height as a German Shepherd - and if Mr. M'eyari was going to mistake a Shepherd for a wild animal, he probably would have thought it was a black wolf (which do exist in Michigan, though they are still pretty rare, and last I knew were mostly in the UP).

As for the inlaws - turns out today is their anniversary. So I have to wait for them to get home from their special day together before I pounce and interrogate them, lol.

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quote:
Originally posted by M'eyari:
The reason I've been saying "black panther" is to distinguish it from the Florida Panther/Cougar.

It's an unnecessary distinction for an educated audience. There has never been a black cougar, they seem to be completely lacking the melanistic potential for it. Interestingly, there are many reported sightings of black cougars with the observer insisting it was a cougar.

I really have no problem with the use of the term black panther when the party is unable to make a distinction between black jaguar and black leopard.

It would probably be no surprise to you now that I am highly skeptical of reported black panther sightings. These are nearly epidemic now in Britain, USA & Australia. I do not believe there has been a single confirmation of one. Another interesting thing is that the black form is rare, even as pets. Yet there are virtually no sightings of these cats with normal coloration. It has all the implications of an urban legend and mass hysteria.

Photographs have been presented of these animals and none show black panthers. A few are very obviously black housecats and others show black dogs. Many are so poor that the creature could be a dirt pile if it is anything at all. There is mischief at work, M'eyari.

quote:
I've ruled out Mr. M'eyari's cat as being anything other than an escaped black leopard because the only other thing it could have been was a cougar with an excellent dye job.
He was able to make the distinction between jaguar and leopard?

quote:
black wolf (which do exist in Michigan, though they are still pretty rare, and last I knew were mostly in the UP).
I know wolves are in UP Michigan. On October 24th one stepped into a coyote trap in far northern LP. It was wearing a radio collar and had crossed the straight from the UP. It is the first confirmed wolf in the LP in modern times.

Do you have citable information on the black form being in the UP?

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M'eyari
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quote:
Originally posted by Barns & No Bull:
I really have no problem with the use of the term black panther when the party is unable to make a distinction between black jaguar and black leopard.

Then I shall return to using "black panther." I wasn't there, so I don't know if what he saw was a black leopard or jaguar - his exact words were "I saw a black panther." "Black leopard" was my assumption.

What is safe to assume as fact is that four years ago, while walking in our woods, my husband ran into a big, black animal. He saw it from less than twenty feet away, and was looking into its face. After a few minutes, the animal moved away.

Now, since my husband was able to observe not only what the animal physically looked like, but also how it moved, I'm more inclined to believe him when he says that he saw a black panther. It also helps that he didn't get just a passing glance, or a look at "something" moving in shadows. His sighting was a long look taken in broad daylight. How many of the reported big cat sightings occurred while the animal was in the shadows, or while the viewer was in a moving vehicle? How many occurred at night? Now, how many actually occurred when the observer was able to view the animal for more than a split second? So far, my husband is the only witness I've heard who has been able to say that that is how his encounter took place. (With the exception of the warden mentioned in another thread who was feeding "his" panther - and even then, didn't he see his panther at night?).

quote:
Originally posted by M'eyari:
if Mr. M'eyari was going to mistake a Shepherd for a wild animal, he probably would have thought it was a black wolf

I was using the black form of the Grey Wolf species as an example. (Article on UP Wolves)

Now, if Mr. M'eyari had said that what he saw was a "black wolf" I might be more inclined to doubt him and think that what he saw was really a large black dog. The fact that he is so convinced that what he saw was a black panther rules out, for me, that the animal he saw was anything from the canine family. The fact that what he saw was the same height as a German Shepherd rules out that it was a big housecat, as do the giant pawprints. (The largest housecat I've ever had weighed in at 15 pounds, and left a pawprint no wider than two inches - the ones my inlaws found were at least 5 inches wide, possibly more).

Also, our land is on the edges of a swamp that is more than 1 square mile. No humans inhabit the swamp's interior, and there is a large herd of deer that take refuge there because neither we nor our neighbors hunt. I don't find it hard to believe that a big cat could, if released into the swamp, survive by preying on the local deer population. Of course, I'm not an expert on big cats, so I could be wrong.

So, until I can actually talk to the inlaws and gather more data, I'm left with only the following as facts on the animal:

1) It was black.
2) It was a feline.
3) It's height at its shoulder was the same as a large German Shepherd (I'll estimate 3' high at the shoulder, maybe 3.5')
4) It left a pawprint the size of a 6'3" beefy human's hand (seriously, the man's hand can completely cover my entire face, and my face isn't exactly small). So, 5" to 7" (I don't know if it was the width of the FIL's hand, or the length - yet another reason I need to talk to him).

So if it wasn't a panther, what else do you think it might have been?

Also - the people in my small town don't need a new version of Bigfoot. We already have one - affectionately known as The Millington Hills Monster. Morg may have mentioned him on this site already.

Eta: Barns, I'm inclined to agree with you that the mass-sightings of big black cats has the earmarks of a UL. I'm just making an exception in this case because my husband is the witness, because he saw it under the previously mentioned conditions, and because the tale of how it ended up in our woods was that it was released there, and not that it was part of a breeding population (which all the other sightings seem to suggest is the theory). I'm still operating on the assumption that Mr. M'eyari's panther is an isolated case.

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Barns & No Bull
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by M'eyari:
His sighting was a long look taken in broad daylight. How many of the reported big cat sightings occurred while the animal was in the shadows, or while the viewer was in a moving vehicle? How many occurred at night? Now, how many actually occurred when the observer was able to view the animal for more than a split second?

Black panther sightings have occured in almost every imaginable scenario. Most of them suggest that the observer had a reasonable degree of certainty that they saw what they describe. Some encounters are meticulously described as if the person was exercising creative writing skills. But fundamentally they are all the same - somebody sees a black panther then nobody can actually find it. You are going to think I'm joking when you hear this...many people in the UK believe that these cats are alien beings that can disappear and have supernatural abilities. You owe it to yourself (if only for amusement) to go to the website in one of the links I provided called "Big Cat Monitors" based in the UK. There are at least a few American websites about our big black cats. Somewhere I saw a skeptical comment saying that if all the sightings were true then there are more of these things running loose than have ever existed in captivity!

quote:
...the giant pawprints.
It's too bad those weren't photographed or plaster casts made from them. A black panther running around is not a trivial thing. They are potentially dangerous to humans, pets and livestock.

quote:
I don't find it hard to believe that a big cat could, if released into the swamp, survive by preying on the local deer population. Of course, I'm not an expert on big cats, so I could be wrong.
That's exactly what they would do...maybe. Unless life in captivity from birth deprived them of functional hunting skills. Eating chopped horsemeat out of a bowl ain't like catching and killing a deer. Panther mothers teach their cubs how to hunt and kill in addition to their inherent instinctual behaviors. But anyway, physical evidence of their presence in the swamp could be found. They leave dung, pawprints, carcasses that have indications of a cat kill, tree scratchings, etc.

quote:
1) It was black.
2) It was a feline.
3) It's height at its shoulder was the same as a large German Shepherd (I'll estimate 3' high at the shoulder, maybe 3.5')
4) It left a pawprint the size of a 6'3" beefy human's hand (seriously, the man's hand can completely cover my entire face, and my face isn't exactly small). So, 5" to 7" (I don't know if it was the width of the FIL's hand, or the length - yet another reason I need to talk to him).

So if it wasn't a panther, what else do you think it might have been?

Given those specific descriptions I could conclude nothing other than a black panther.

quote:
Eta: Barns, I'm inclined to agree with you that the mass-sightings of big black cats has the earmarks of a UL. I'm just making an exception in this case because my husband is the witness, because he saw it under the previously mentioned conditions, and because the tale of how it ended up in our woods was that it was released there, and not that it was part of a breeding population (which all the other sightings seem to suggest is the theory). I'm still operating on the assumption that Mr. M'eyari's panther is an isolated case.
I don't see any fundamental reason why your husband's sighting could not be real.

M'eyari, I want you to take no offense or imagined intent with my following comments: There must be a meaningful percentage of sightings in which there would be spousal vouching of the credibility of the witness. If credibility could be used as a surrogate for a real animal then there are many hundreds of black panthers living outside of their natural range in populated areas that are unconfirmed and apparently unfindable.

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M'eyari
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Duly noted, Barns. Just because I have to believe the hubby doesn't mean I expect you to, honest! [Smile] Sorry if I've been a little...overvigorous...in my defense of his family's Mystery Cat. Even if it's not true (which is still unproven), it makes for a good tale on dark winter nights. [Wink]

I also have another question for you - is it genetically impossible for cougars to have a black-type? I ran across a website that says that black cougars exist (it also said they were extremely rare), but it didn't provide any photos.

Well, I got some of my research done today. Here's what I dug up:

1) Wild cats (both large and small) have been sighted in our swamp since at least 1980 (which is when my grandparents-in-law bought the property and built their house). Both bobcats and lynxes have been sighted in a five mile radius of our home; bobcat scat has been found and analyzed; a single lynx was hit and killed by a car (inlaws were unable to provide an exact date, said it happened about a decade ago).

2) My inlaws' first encounter with our panther occured in 1981, when it walked out in front of one of their trucks. According to my FIL and grand-FIL, it stood in the middle of the driveway, stared at them like it was saying "You won't hit me", and then sauntered off into the woods. Encounter occured about one hour before sunset. Both men report that the feline was black, possesed a long tail, and took up nearly the entire driveway with its length (the driveway is almost exactly the width of a Chevy Silverado).

3) The cat remained relatively out of the picture for more than a decade. My father-in-law spotted it once in that time, but says that it was a quick glimpse of it disappearing into the brush. "All I really saw was its tail." he said. "Think black housecat tail, but MUCH bigger - it had to have been three feet long, at least." My inlaws stated that they were not alone in their sightings - neighbors that have since moved from the neighborhood also sighted the cat, but concern was not raised over its presence until the late 80's/early 90's, when a farmer's horses were attacked by it. The then-newly established zoo in this area was questioned, and denied having had any of its animals escape. A hunt was conducted for the cat, but while its scat was found the animal itself eluded its pursuers.
Note: I know someone who worked at the zoo in question (Wilderness Trails in Birch Run, MI), and asked her if the zoo had ever lost an animal. She told me that while the zoo has had animals escape, every animal that was lost was quickly recaptured. She also says that the zoo has never, to her knowledge, had a black panther as part of its exhibit. Lions, tigers, cougars, Canadian lynxes and bobcats, but never any leopards.

3) The last sighting of the panther occurred in 1997, when my husband ran across it in the woods (I was mistaken when I said that he saw it four years ago - my apologies for my mistake). He was out walking, and almost literally stumbled across it. According to him, the panther was less than twenty feet away and he froze, trying not to stare it directly in the eyes. After a few minutes the cat lost interest and walked away. The next day, my husband and father-in-law returned to where Mr. M'eyari had seen the cat, and that is when both found the pawprints the size of my FIL's hand.

Since then, there have been no actual sightings of the cat. Four years ago my mother-in-law heard what she describes as a "terrible ruckus" in the woods outside her home. (My in-laws house was built in 1989, about 1/8 of a mile deeper into the woods than my grandparents-in-laws' home). The MIL describes it as "It sounded like a person screaming." Our guess is that the family panther had been killing a deer much closer to the house than it normally did.

A few years ago, video footage was taken of a supposed panther in the Mayville area, which is about thirty miles east of where we are. Since our cat hasn't been sighted since 1997, my inlaws think that it may have migrated east, especially since coyotes started appearing in our swamp in 1999-2000. I've been trying to find a website that hosts the video (its a home video shot behind a glass sliding door), but so far haven't been able to find it. The news station that broadcast the video was ABC 12 (www.abc12.com, I believe), but they haven't hosted it at their website. I could only find one article where the footage was even mentioned, and the author said that it was impossible to tell if the animal was a panther or a really large black cat.

So I'm still working on finding actual footage of the Swamp Cat. I did find out, however, that the story of the cat being an escaped exotic pet came up when the hunt for it was on - apparently that was the working theory of the officers involved in the hunt, since the local zoo denied that the cat had escaped from their collection.

So, the cat has been seen by my husband, my FIL and my grand-FIL, but not by my MIL or my grand-MIL. Every member of the family has, except for my recently-added self, seen its pawprints and vouches as to their size. I'm currently trying to find an article on the hunt that was made for it over a decade ago.

One thing that I do find interesting is that the presence of bobcats and lynxes has been confirmed for this area. The lynx really surprises me - I didn't think we had any in the LP (lower peninsula). So that makes me wonder - are there such things as black bobcats/lynxes? If there are, or at least if there are ones that are dark enough that a quick glance might make a viewer think they are seeing a black cat, perhaps that is what my inlaws have been seeing over the years?

Also, for those who were discussing cougars, two things:

1) Sorry for hijacking this thread with my family's Mystery Cat. I didn't know the hijacking would go this far!

2) I found this interesting site on cougars in my homestate: Michigan Wildlife Conservatory. They claim to have conclusive proof of a breeding population of cougars in south-eastern Michigan, but I'm not sure how reliable of a source they are.

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Barns & No Bull
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by M'eyari:
I also have another question for you - is it genetically impossible for cougars to have a black-type? I ran across a website that says that black cougars exist (it also said they were extremely rare), but it didn't provide any photos.

AFAIK, there has never been a documented black cougar. Quite a number of sightings have stated that the witness reported the cat as a black cougar specifically. These cats have a range of color but always a shade of tawny. The darkest shade does not even come close to black. Even within shadows or poor lighting they do not appear black. As I said before, this species does not appear to have the mutation capacity for black coloration. This is also true for other very large cats (tiger, lion, etc), with the exception of jaguar and leopard.

The Internet has numerous sites that offer pseudoscientific "evidence" for black cougars.

quote:
1)Both bobcats and lynxes have been sighted in a five mile radius of our home; bobcat scat has been found and analyzed; a single lynx was hit and killed by a car (inlaws were unable to provide an exact date, said it happened about a decade ago).
AFAIK, a wild lynx (as opposed to captive escapes or releases - which I don't think have been reported either) has never been confirmed in LP Michigan in modern times. Laypeople have difficulties distinguishing bobcats from lynx. Do you have any documentation for the lynx killed by a car.

quote:
3)My inlaws stated that they were not alone in their sightings - neighbors that have since moved from the neighborhood also sighted the cat, but concern was not raised over its presence until the late 80's/early 90's, when a farmer's horses were attacked by it. The then-newly established zoo in this area was questioned, and denied having had any of its animals escape. A hunt was conducted for the cat, but while its scat was found the animal itself eluded its pursuers.
It would be interesting if we could know whether the sightings were original, or if they came after hearing of other sightings. How was it determined that the scat was from a black panther, as opposed to a bobcat or other animal?

quote:
Four years ago my mother-in-law heard what she describes as a "terrible ruckus" in the woods outside her home. (My in-laws house was built in 1989, about 1/8 of a mile deeper into the woods than my grandparents-in-laws' home). The MIL describes it as "It sounded like a person screaming." Our guess is that the family panther had been killing a deer much closer to the house than it normally did.
Common animals can make weird and unexpected sounds under some circumstances.

quote:
A few years ago, video footage was taken of a supposed panther in the Mayville area, which is about thirty miles east of where we are. I've been trying to find a website that hosts the video (its a home video shot behind a glass sliding door), but so far haven't been able to find it. The news station that broadcast the video was ABC 12 (www.abc12.com, I believe), but they haven't hosted it at their website. I could only find one article where the footage was even mentioned, and the author said that it was impossible to tell if the animal was a panther or a really large black cat.
It would be interesting to see that video. If the journalist mentioned the inability to tell if it was panther or housecat, I would speculate the latter.

quote:
One thing that I do find interesting is that the presence of bobcats and lynxes has been confirmed for this area. The lynx really surprises me - I didn't think we had any in the LP (lower peninsula).
Any links to the lynxes? [Big Grin]

quote:
So that makes me wonder - are there such things as black bobcats/lynxes?
No. Additionally, they have obviously short tails (hence the name bobcat).

quote:
2) I found this interesting site on cougars in my homestate: Michigan Wildlife Conservatory. They claim to have conclusive proof of a breeding population of cougars in south-eastern Michigan, but I'm not sure how reliable of a source they are.
This website and organization is very suspicious! They suggest that if any signs of cougars are found to make a report to their organization (they will provide an observation report form). They make no mention of simultaneously reporting the sign to Michigan DNR (MDNR). I smell a rat. AFAIK, there have been no confirmed cougars in LP Michigan in modern times. The organization boldly proclaims confirmation of cougars in the LP. They include still photos of cougars, tracks & scat, a skull, as well as two home videos that they say are cougars.

The three photos are obviously cougars. One appears to me as if it may be a taxidermy specimen. No mention is given that the photos have been confirmed to be taken in the State of Michigan. This cannot be assumed and the entire section on cougars seems to have overarching confirmation bias. The very close proximity of the cougars to the photographer and lack of aggressive expression is curious. Investigatory work may have been done with these photos, but we are not told of it. These cats may also be captives photographed in a wild setting. A botanist could be consulted, as at least one of the photos clearly shows foliage that may or may not occur in LP Michigan.

quote:
1997 - The Detroit Free Press publishes a very clear photograph of a cougar in Alcona County taken by Jim Deutsch on the property of Larry Lippert. Michigan DNR personnel discredit the photo and the photographer.
The photo provided of tracks in snow does not include any size scale reference. It is imperative to photograph a known object alongside the tracks. This can be done even with common objects that have known size such as currency and coins (almost certainly carried by the photographer). A track in soft dirt is shown with a ruler scale. The tracks do appear to be felid.

Photos are shown of scat, but again this could be bobcat or other animal. Ruler scale is shown with the scats and both are photographed outside of where they were found (photographed on a sheet of paper). In spite of listing a variety of ways to identify cougar signs (tracks, scat, kills, etc) it makes no good attempts to educate the reader on making important distinctions from bobcat signs or even other animals.

Two home videos are provided that they say show cougars.

The first shows two felids that are far from the videographer in what appears to be a harvested cornfield in front of a forested area. The video is not particularly clear but the cats are certainly visible and for a good length of time. The clip begins with a short narration by the woman who filmed them and she is shown speaking to the camera. This was obviously done after the cat filming to create a story setting for the video presentation by Michigan Wildlife Conservancy (MWC). Strangely, she begins by spelling out her last name - Stokes (as if there is more than one way to spell it). She mentions that she has previously filmed deer, coyotes and foxes and goes on to say that "...I have never seen anything like this before. They were definately large." These are superficial attempts to establish credibility.

The video has audio and it begins with a shot of the cats in the field upon which she says, "Are they dogs or coyotes?...Look like lions" It's not clear if she's speaking to herself or someone with her. She makes no further comments during filming. It is quite obvious they are felids and her view of them must have been better than we are provided only with the clip. Why does she ask if they are dogs or coyotes (which she has seen) and why is she filming them so intently?

The narrator (Dennis Fijalkowski, Executive Director of MWC) shows extreme confirmation bias throughout the video. He mentions that only cougars have a black-tipped tail, yet there seems to be no clear visible evidence these cats have that. He also says that even though they are filmed at 300 yards distance (how was this established?) they are obviously large heavy-bodied cats. Oh really? He then states it is diagnostic for cougars to have tails that are at least 1/3 their total body length. I think housecats would qualify for that!

We are told that cougars have a uniform body color as the cats shown do appear. Yet, cougar heads show distinct black markings around the muzzle (shown in their still photos) that seems to be lacking in these cats.

An attempt at size referencing is shown, but it is not done properly and again exhibits confirmation bias.

Much more could be said about this video, but I strongly believe it is an intentional hoax using two housecats.

A second video is provided of a felid in snow. It is very obviously a housecat. It instantly strikes me as a domestic cat and has the pointed ears not found on cougars.

M'eyari, you have found a more sophisticated form of an urban legend - one employing pseudoscience, misleading information, bogus evidence, hoaxable evidence and extreme confirmation bias. The MWC boldly accuses the MDNR of a conspiracy to ignore and suppress cougar evidence in LP Michigan. It has very strong parallels to the Bigfoot phenomenon in Michigan. I would not be surprised at all if individuals involved in this are also involved with Michigan Bigfoot.

Surprise! The MWC wants your donations to study and protect the LP Michigan cougars. There has yet to be authoritative confirmation of cougars in the LP in spite of what the viewer has been presented. The cat smells like a rat. [Big Grin]

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Morrigan
Happy Holly Days


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About Michigan cougars and the DNR: http://www.freep.com/sports/outdoors/cougar1_20011101.htm - "DNA proves at least 20 are roaming, most in UP"

My second cousin saw a cougar near Lapeer while she was riding her horse in some state land.

There've also been sightings near Roscommon.

About the wolves in the LP...

From the DNR: http://www.cns.jrn.msu.edu/articles/2004_1015/WOLVES.HTML

Another story from my family: My brother was out deer hunting, when a huge blackish animal started to do something. (Don't remember the story much...) He didn't know what it was, but he shot it because he was afraid. He gave it to a friend who was going to have it mounted. When he described it to me, it sounded like a wolf. Down to the ears, the eyes etc. It did not sound like a coyote. There've also been sightings of a pack near Roscommon/West Branch.

Morrigan

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"The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep." Robert Frost, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

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