New Mountain Lion Sighting in Brown County
Monday, March 11th, was a day not unlike most others for Brown County resident James Halcomb until a frantic call from his daughter changed everything. James had ventured into Nashville to run an errand for another family member when his phone rang.
Upon answering the call, Halcomb was immediately greeted by screams of terror and nearly unintelligible cries. Through the cries, James could barely make out that a big cat was killing his daughter's pet housecat. James made his way home from Nashville with extreme haste. As he neared the house, he swung in to action to protect his own.
"I ran and grabbed a muzzleloader,” Halcomb said, “that I knew was loaded and took off toward the back yard where my daughter was still crying.” He assumed the culprit was one of the area's many bobcats. "I set out looking for a bobcat. When I caught up with it, it was only about 25 yards away from me in some beech saplings with our cat in its mouth," James recounted. "I was overwhelmed with what I had just came upon, it was definitely not a bobcat! I realized I was looking at a cat well over one hundred pounds. Very scary, really!"
Responding police officers search for the alleged mountain lion near James Halcomb's property on Monday, March 11, 2019. Photo credit: James Halcomb
James and the family dog pursued the cat a short distance as the animal continued to carry the now-dead family cat. A moment later the big cat dropped its prey to take a failed swipe at the family's dog, which was barking at — quite obvious to Halcomb — a mountain lion. James did manage to tree the cat briefly but was unable to get a clear shot before it jumped down and made its way onto nearby state property.
At this point, James heard the voices of local law enforcement officers calling for him as family members had also called 911. Conservation officers from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and officers from the Brown County Sheriff's Department responded. Mr. Halcomb informed WildIndiana.com that the officers he spoke with seemed to think the intruder was most likely a bobcat, despite his insistence otherwise — at least until a call came over the police radio that the cat was sighted a short distance away by other officers, moving across a field where it soon disappeared into the woods. The pet cat's body was recovered from the woods and taken by the IDNR for examination.
James discribes the cat as, "Waist tall, thick in the chest with golden colored hair and a long, thick tail the size of a baseball bat. It had big eyes, was super fast, and flat-out put me in awe!" During our interview he mentioned several times it was "bigger than a German shepherd, the size of a doe deer, but much sturdier in build."
Neither the IDNR, nor the Brown Co. Sheriff Department returned calls requesting comment. In a follow-up interview on Tuesday, March 12, Halcomb said he had spoken with an officer from the IDNR who told him that without pictures the department was inclined to believe it was a large bobcat, despite the radio traffic from Sheriff's deputies stating otherwise.
Halcomb remains confident in his belief a mountain lion killed his family cat. "I really thought any cat, of any kind, would be gone in the roughly ten minutes it took me to get home," stated James. "My daughter said it sat there shaking her cat for what seemed like five minutes with the dog barking at it and her screaming."
"I've got little girls who play in my yard and get on the bus at 6:30 a.m. while it's still dark. I've lived on this road pretty much all my life and I've never seen anything like this. I really feel uneasy about my children being outside there now," added Halcomb.
If you see one
In the unlikely even you come across a large cat in the Yellowwood State Forest, (or anywhere for that matter) it is best to keep a safe distance from the animal and get away as quickly as possible without running, as fast movement can trigger a cat's chase instinct. Do not crouch or bend down and try to appear a large as possible.
Mountain lions will usually try to avoid confrontation if possiblem, but if you are attacked, fight back.
Mountain Lions — or cougars, as they are sometimes called — are protected in Indiana. There is no hunting season and any sighting should be reported to the DNR; it is unlawful to kill a mountain lion in the state.