Monday, August 13, 2007

The Chapel Valley "Mountain Lion"

As I was falling asleep one night a few weeks ago, I was annoyed by a persistent yowling sound, which to me at the time sounded like a neighborhood cat in heat. It was faint, but kept waking me up. Jim was up late that night working, and by the time he came to bed the sound had grown a little louder. An hour later, we were startled awake by a raspy, cat-like yowling sound so loud it frightened us. The noise level had increased to something comparable to a person standing right outside our bedroom window and screaming at the top of their lungs. This was no neighborhood cat. Slightly freaked out, but also tired, we tried to go back to sleep. The sound continued. The next night after he got home we talked about it and although we're not typically scaredy-cats (pun slightly intended), we decided even though it's rare for them to call attention to themselves, there was a chance that it was a mountain lion. Living near the edge of the Black Hills National Forest, this isn't unheard of. Lions are found or spotted in our neighborhood from time to time.
I called Game, Fish and Parks to ask them what they thought. After my explanation, the very helpful and nice man informed me that there was a chance it was a lion, but since it's so rare for them to make excessive noise it probably wasn't. He did, however, have a pretty good idea what it was. Apparently they get calls all the time describing the very same cat-like yowling we'd heard. It comes not from a large cat, but from this- the Eastern Screech Owl. Standing at a mighty 6 inches high, they make a sound so loud and so cat-like, people call all the time wondering if they've got a mountain lion at their house. So there. He said there's a good chance it had been flying around the neighborhood (explaining the varying sound levels) and then probably parked itself in the tree right next to our window.

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