DNR Wildlife Specialist John Diewoonder

Resident swears cougar sighting was real deal

May 24, 2012 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA Last week’s front page article reported that DNR Wildlife Specialist John Niewoonder did not believe people reporting a string of cougar sightings in the Rockford area were actually spotting cougars. Michelle Bieke of the Lake Bella Vista area took exception to this opinion. She called the Squire on Friday, May 18 to comment on the article. Bieke said she was at home in her condominium at Cannon Place at Myers Lake and Belding Road on April 13. Around 9:30 p.m., when the light outside was dusky, she looked into her wooded back yard. She was talking on the phone. “I expected to see the usual bunny rabbit. First I saw the body, then my eyes went to the head. I saw how rounded it was. It was definitely not a bobcat,” she stated. She said a tarp had blown off her deck and was on the ground in the yard, and the cougar had been sniffing. She said she screamed, and the big cat looked right at her. “I yelled, ‘Oh, my god, there is  cougar in my back yard,’” she stated. The person she was talking to told her she was crazy, there was no way she was looking at a cougar. Bieke said she is not reassured by the DNR’s insistence that there is little to fear in a possible local attack by a cougar. She is concerned about neighborhood children in the areas where a cougar sighting has been reported. “I tell you I literally take a frying pan and a wooden spoon to the door before I let my little dog out,” she stated. She also believes that if her sighting was actually a cougar, the others may be real as well and said there are similarities to the accounts, such as being always near water and woods. “I know I saw what I saw, and I’m not a crazy person,” she said.

DNR says cougar is kitty or dog

May 17, 2012 // 0 Comments

Greenville bear is legit by BETH ALTENA “There are lots of things in this world to be worried about, being attacked by a cougar is not one of them. You are much more likely to have a problem with a neighbor’s dog.” The statement was from DNR Wildlife Specialist John Niewoonder of the Plainwell office regarding a string of four recent cougar sightings in Rockford. The latest sighting was called in by a local real estate agent who was showing a home off the Rogue River last week and saw a cat she estimated at 150 pounds walking along the riverbank near the new Rockford nature trail. The same person also talked recently with another Rockford resident who spotted a big cat near Lake Bella Vista a week ago and heard of another person who reported a sighting near Young Avenue and Bush Street east of Rockford. All sightings may be related to a Squire article which showed a print of an alleged cougar in Blythefield at the Rogue River, found in the morning after one of this winter’s infrequent snowfalls. According to Niewoonder, biologists with the natural resources in western states, where the cats are known to frequent, examined the picture of the print posted on the Squire’s website and determined it was a dog. According to his experts, mountain lion prints will never show a claw mark. “Their claws are retracted into the paw while walking, so prints usually turn out to belong to dogs. Cougars have very distinctive prints.” He said he expected cougar sightings to follow. “I don’t know if it is a social thing or a cultural thing, but once you start talking about a cougar sighting, you get all kinds of sightings. I don’t know if it is just how people’s minds work or a phenomenon.” Michigan has had confirmed mountain lions, Niewoonder stated, but those were in the Upper Penninsula. He also admitted that lions are known as a traveling animal that can go hundreds of miles, so it is possible a mountain lion passed this area. If it did, he said, no one would be likely to see it. “We had one captured in the western states—North Dakota or one of those—and was captured again in an […]