By Roger McKinney
GALENA, Kan. — The cougar vs. house cat debate has been resolved.
It was a common house cat that was captured on a surveillance video at Allied Waste Services at 2:32 a.m. Saturday, July 5, according to Matt Peek, fur-bearer biologist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. The business is on old Route 66, east of Galena.
“The cat is out of the bag,” said Galena police Chief Larry Delmont, who sought the agency’s help in identifying the cat. Delmont had provided Peek with the video.
Peek and two others from the department traveled to Galena last Thursday with a digital camera and a 15-inch-tall by 64-inch-long piece of cardboard to conduct their own experiment. The cardboard was placed in the spot where the cat is seen on the surveillance video and was photographed.
“The length was meant to represent an approximate length of a small adult or subadult mountain lion, but the lion would be 1.5 or two times as tall as the cardboard,” Peek wrote in his report. “The animal in the surveillance footage is nowhere near that.”
He wrote that based on comparisons of the surveillance footage and the experiment photos, the animal in the video is just over 20 inches long, consistent with a house cat.
Peek wrote that mountain lions have proportionally smaller heads than house cats, and mountain lions have proportionally longer tails than house cats.
And the large paw prints found at the scene? Peek wrote that he viewed photos of the prints and saw others while in Galena, and he identified them as dog tracks.
Reached by phone, Peek said he would have been surprised to find a cougar or mountain lion in the Galena area, because it is not part of their habitat. He said though almost every community has a legend about a black panther or cougar, it’s always someone else who had seen it.
He said the only feline found in the wild around the region is the bobcat.
Peek said he doesn’t expect his findings to settle the debate for everyone.
“I know there will be people who question anything the state does,” he said. “I think the results are pretty conclusive.”
‘Paws’ for reflection
Galena police Chief Larry Delmont said he is satisfied with the report. He said he would have been concerned about public safety if officials had determined that the animal was a cougar or other big cat.
By Roger McKinney
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