FROATBURN — Rural South Dundas resident Cecile Biggs caught her first momentary glimpse of the creature as it ambled out of view, moving eastward along the shoulder of Froatburn Rd. in front of her house.
Biggs says she briefly spied the movement as she looked through the front patio door from inside her home, around noon on March 26. She had been intending to see if one of her black labs might have returned from his regular unaccompanied romps down to the nearby creek.
“I thought it might be coyote,” she said, relaying her first initial impression of what she saw before it disappeared. “I just caught the back of it.”
About five minutes later, the animal returned, now on the other side of the road, emerging from a wooded area and walking in the opposite direction through a small meadow opposite Biggs’s residence. It was clearly in view while walking toward the forest on the other side of the clearing. “I said, ‘That’s not coyote, it’s got a big, long tail,” she recounts.
“I didn’t know what it was; I said it’s either a lynx or a cougar because I know we’ve had lynx here before,” she says, standing in the sunshine, looking back across the road at the spot where the animal made its appearance a day earlier.
A lynx, however, has a short tail, and isn’t as large as the creature described by Biggs.
“It looked like a cat,” she confirms, estimating the feline was “a little bigger” than her 100-pound canine companions — My-ou and Gus. “It was the colour of a deer. And a long tail; that’s why I said, ‘That’s no coyote.'”
She worried My-ou might come back to the house right at that moment and “meet face to face” with the wild visitor, but that never happened. The other dog was already inside by then.
The big cat “passed in front of where those two big apple trees are,” says the Timmy’s Place of Morrisburg volunteer, pointing at the meadow, “and then he went into the woods.”
Nation Valley News did find a row of tracks in the snow made by an animal crossing the area — in the spot described by Biggs. They entered the bush and continued for a long distance through the trees.
Photos of the tracks have been submitted to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for an opinion on the species involved.
Cougars are rare and endangered in Ontario, so rare they were officially listed as “extirpated” from the province until several years ago. Capturing good, clear photos or video footage of the species in this province appears to happen about as often as a UFO crash.
The last time a hunter shot and killed a cougar in Ontario was in the 1800s. More recently, hunters in Northern Ontario discovered a cougar corpse in 2017.
Update: Ministry biologists have looked at the photos and believe they were made by a canine. Based on their “opinions they are tracks of a dog or coyote,” John Boos, Resources Management Supervisor with the Kemptville District MNRF, wrote by email. “The characteristics support this in that there is claw marks visible, rear of heel pad has 2 lobes and front of heel pad has 1 lobe.”