Rockford resident finds proof of cougar on property

This print was sighted in Rockford on February 27 after one of this winter’s rather rare snowfalls. Rockford resident and author Carson Clay had his son take a picture with his size 12 boot included for reference. The family identified the track as that of a mountain lion.

Carson Clay, who lives near Blythefield Country Club awoke to a surprise in the snow last month. He reports that he lives on a heavily wooded ridge near the Rogue River. On February 27, his wife and granddaughter came upon large tracks in the snow south of Rockford. They were heading north (upstream) on the east bank of the Rogue River near the country club.

“They had our black Labrador with them on a leash,” Clay stated. “Upon returning home, she informed my sons and they both went out to trace the path in the snow where she had just walked. They soon came upon and followed the tracks.”

Mike, the youngest, also took pictures of the very clear imprints next to his size 12 boot. He then took the pictures back home and pulled up a web site to make a comparison of what they were. The tracks were approximately the same width or wider and half the length of his boot. The family identified them as the tracks of a mountain lion.

The family’s oldest son, Andy, had continued to follow the animal’s trail. When he returned, he said it had circled around, crossed to the west on a walking bridge that spans about 120 feet of the river, then headed south to West River Drive. The tracks crossed the four-lane highway there and went on to the grounds of the Grand Rogue Campground and Water Sports at the junction where the Rogue runs into the Grand River.

“After that, he lost the tracks,” Clay said.

About a month prior to seeing the tracks, Andy, an avid fisherman, had spotted a dead deer in the Rogue River. He had called the DNR and later they sent an officer out to investigate. They both put chest waders on and together pulled the carcass across the river to an island. It had been shot by an arrow and apparently had died as it tried to cross the river. Andy said it would be questionable to skin the deer for its meat as it had been out there for at least two or three days, so they left it on the island for carrion animals.

“It’s my feeling that the cougar must have been feeding on that deer,” Clay said. “From our side of the river [west of the island] and below the ridge, it’s only about a twenty-foot jump from bank to bank. There are also log jams on that stretch of water that an animal could use to cross to the island. I have heard that cougars don’t like to swim if they can avoid it. The information we referenced also said that the big cats are known to be more active at dawn or dusk when they hunt. We feel the animal must have left the island during the night of February 26, because there were no tracks onto the golf course prior to that day.”

Clay said he often walks his dog on the ridge that overlooks the island and river. He keeps her on a leash so that she doesn’t chase deer or other animals. From the top of the ridge with the leaves down—especially when there’s snow on the ground—he can see most of the forested six- or seven-acre island.

“Often we sit there with, Annie, our dog, on stumps and watch the sunset, or if it’s later we may view the moon as it rises in the east. Now, there in the moonlight, I will be well aware that we share our land with the big cats. It’s exciting to know that they are somewhere out there and just possibly they may not be too far away.”

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