Wildlife Encounters- In Mississippi

Bobby Boyd's encounter with a Jaguarundi while Arrowhead Hunting near Meridian, MS
Article content by Bobby Boyd-Meridian Star Newspaper

The jaguarundi is native to Central America and the northern and central countries of South America down to Argentina - and in the past also rarely sighted in parts of Texas and New Mexico in the southern United States.  More recently there are reports of this big cat showing up more frequently in the southern US. A number of jaguarundi found in Florida, southern Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi are descendants of a small population introduced to Florida in the 1940’s.  In appearance the jaguarundi is unlike any other cat and has been likened to a large weasel or otter, hence its english common name of ‘Otter Cat’. It is uniform in colour, ranging from dark grey/brown to an almost chestnut brown. In common with other species of wild cat, the darker forms are usually associated with dense forest cover and the paler forms with more arid habitats.  The jaguarundi's body is long and low supported by short legs, measuring up to some 30 inches with an additional tail of about 20 inches. The head is small in proportion to its body size and sports short weasel like ears and narrow brown eyes. The jaguarundi is spotted at birth but these are lost at around three-four months old. Genetically, of all the wild cat species to be found in South America, the jaguarundi can perhaps be more closely associated with the larger felines. It has a chromosome count of 38, as do both the puma and jaguar, where as the remaining small felines in South America have only 36. There is some evidence to suggest that the jaguarundi is perhaps a descendant of the ancestral puma which is believed to have emigrated from Asia via the Bering Land bridge.

New Cat In Our Woods  .....Having been an avid arrowhead hunter for the last 22 years and having probably been in every creek in Lauderdale County, MS, I thought I had seen all the critters this area had to offer. However, a couple of months ago I was privileged to see an animal that I believe is now roaming this area. Maybe you have seen one too!  I was waling in Tules creek, north of Martin, MS one beautiful afternoon looking for arrowheads, when I came to a buildup of logs and limbs that was blocking my way. As I was standing there trying to decide whether to go thru the buildup (and fight off the cottonmouths) or go around on the bank, something caught my eye in a second buildup about thirty feet down stream.   As I focused on that area, a beautiful cat suddenly appeared on a log completely open to my view and it just froze looking at me.  My first thought was that some one's housecat had gotten lost in the woods, but I was miles from any houses. Then having been around and living with my wife's cats for 40 years, I could tell this cat was somewhat larger than a regular house cat. (And we have had some large cats over the years!) The next thing I noticed about this cat was his head.  There was something different about his head! And his ears were different. After maybe ten seconds he turned his back to me and jumped off the log and that is when I saw he had an unusually long tail.  What had I seen ?  I immediately called my good friend Eddie Spears who is president of the CC Club (Collinsville Coffee Club) that meets every morning and solves all problems and answers all questions of the world. Eddie said "It had to be a bobcat," but this tail was a foot and a half long! Then he suggested it was probably an otter.  But no, "It was a cat," I replied. I know a cat when I see one!  I brought the subject up the next morning at the CC Club and can you believe it, no one had an answer as to what it was. I even spoke with Richard Rumble, the state's cat expert with Game and Fish commission and he believed it was probably an otter, but he did not know about Lisa.  I guess this would be the end of the story, a mystery never solved, but thanks to radio station 1010 AM and their program, "Coast To Coast AM," that airs every night, the mystery was solved.

I am listening to this program about there days after my sighting and they were interviewing Lisa Wojcik, a Biologist and Cryptozoologist from Florida, who was an expert on extinct and exotic animals. She had been studying the Jaguarundi felines, sometimes called "Otter cats." the Otter Cats had been spotted in Florida even though they are not native to that area. After her study, Lisa concluded that Jaguarundi are now roaming the entire Gulf Coast region.  As she described the animal and how rare and pretty it is, the hair on the back of my neck stood up.  I now had no doubt what I had seen. How improbable was it that I had seen this animal and then a few days later heard an expert describe this animal exactly as I had seen it?  According to Lisa Wojcki, this cat is slightly larger than a house cat. It can range from 18-25 lbs., with a small flat head and short ears. It is light grey to dark grey in color and some are solid black. (Could this account for some of the reported panther sightings in the area?)  It also has an unusually long tail, about 20 inches long, and is known to be native to Central and south America but, also resides in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia. Well, Lisa, you can now add Mississippi to that list!

Bobby Boyd, Arrowhead Hunter, Meridian, MS

Now The Rest Of The Story...........

The Collinsville Coffee Club was somewhat chagrined at not having an answer for what  Bobby had spotted before it was discovered it was a Jaguarundi. So, Eddie spears decided to have a little fun with Bobby Boyd and the Jaguarundi sighting.  Eddie and a friend made up a picture of a Jaguarundi and then they put Bobby's head on the picture.  Eddie posted the picture at the Collinsville Coffee Club meeting place. When Bobby showed up one morning, they all sat around talking and smiling, waiting for Bobby to notice this picture. He finally did and they all had a big laugh out of this joke.

The elusive Bobbierundi
Last Seen Around and About the Collinsville
 Coffee Clubhouse

Other Wildlife Sightings in East Central Mississippi

by Ray Vaughn, Miss. Arrowhead Hunters

During the past 10 years, there have been more and more reports of unusual wildlife signtings in Mississippi.  Animals that have not been seen in 100 years and in some cases never seen before. These animals include bear, mountain lions or Cougar, large alligators and unusually large snakes.   Coyotes have become common place when 25 years ago, there were very few around. The bear and mountain lion, were present in this area long ago, but mostly disappeared by the early 1900s. Today, without any natural predators, they are reappearing. The Miss. Wildlife Fisheries and Parks initially denied that these animals were present in the region. However, the latest statement is that while no sightings have been confirmed by the State, it is probable that some of these animals have ventured into the region. There are numerous black bear sightings in the Meridian, MS area and these have been reported on the news and in the Meridian Star newspaper. Video link black bear capture near Meridian, MS   Some of these sightings have occurred inside the Meridian city limits . These reports are easily found using an internet search.

Now, the mountain lion or Cougar is a little scarier. These animals can get up to 200 Lbs. A grown mountain lion can kill and drag an 800 Lb. horse 100 yards.  I have personally sighted a mountain lion crossing highway 15 north between Bay Springs, MS and Montrose, MS early one October morning in 2002. As large as a very big dog with a tail longer than the body.  I would estimate the size around 75-100 lbs.  A few months later, Dr. Keith Lay, Jr. received 2 reports of a mountain lion sighting on his timber farm near Stringer, MS.  seen by pipeline maintenance crews. These sightings occurred over a few weeks and in each case, the mountain lion had been stalking deer feeding on green grass growing on the pipeline. Later on an arrowhead hunt at this same property, Ed Kampe and I found a fresh spike buck kill in a dense bottom area along Terrapin creek. The deer had been killed by a bite to the top back of its neck which snapped the spinal cord. It had been partially eaten along the legs and hind quarters. We decided to carefully leave the area knowing that if this was a mountain lion kill, the animal would  return to feed again.  As we climbed out of the bottom onto higher ground we found another deer skeleton that we believe could have been another kill with many, many bones scattered around the hilltop not to mention the many quartzite chips present. The freshly killed deer would weigh 50 Lbs. and the second skeleton appeared to be a full grown deer.

There are numerous reports of mountain lions in the Meridian, MS area in the Meridian Star and recently a video posted of a mountain lion sighting near Meridian, MS ; see it at this link;  Cougar-Mountain Lion Video from Meridian, MS.

Another recent sighting of a very large mountain lion near Pascagoula, MS caught on a game camera stalking a whitetail.

Many experts say that the Cougar is not a threat to people. But, there are more reports of Cougars attacking farm animals all over the US including dogs in the yard. These animals are known to occasionally stalk and attack joggers, hikers and bikers in some of the western states and they have killed humans. They are very stealthy stalkers and people who have been attacked say that they had no idea they were being stalked or that the animal was anywhere nearby.  This is just a thought for all the arrowhead hunters who are in the woods alone, down in the creek on their knees for long periods of time with their back to the woods. The wooded hills south and west of Meridian has large rocks and outcroppings of limestone that make a good hiding place for these animals as well as big rattle snakes.

Alligators don't bother me so much, however a man  developing camp property between Pointe, MS and Chunky, MS recently told me that he has seen a few larger alligators in the Chunky river that would measure more than 12 feet.  And there is the ever present but rarely seen wild boar.  Some of these big hogs are more than 3 feet high with long tusks and weigh over 300 Lbs.

I do have a story to tell about Dr. Robert Bailey's encounter with a big snake as soon as I get the details. And, I guess I will save Bigfoot until a later date. I did see where 2 sightings have been reported in Lauderdale County for this elusive creature!

Beware and take care in the woods because our outdoors in Mississippi is changing every day.  It's a beautiful place but sometimes can be dangerous. One never knows what kind of wildlife you may encounter when hunting arrowheads.

Thanks for looking
Ray Vaughn, Mississippi Arrowhead Hunters

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