BRAMWELL — Click here to watch the video
Are mountain lions roaming southern West Virginia? A surveillance video shot at a local home suggests that big cats could be roaming the forests of Mercer County.
For years there have been reports of cougars, also known as mountain lions, being sighted in West Virginia. Tracks have been reported as well. Speculation started locally when a home video camera sighted what appears to be a large, feline form stalking near some homes at East Rogers Street in Bramwell.
Kevin Tickle, 42, said his family noticed the form caught by his home’s video system after they noticed some motion sensors were coming on. His wife checked the video and spotted the animal. It was recorded at 2:49 a.m., Oct. 23.
“She had seen it and left me a note. She didn’t know what it was,” Tickle said. He checked the video footage and saw the animal too.
It appeared to be walking along a roadside bank. Tickle said the bank is approximately four feet high and a nearby tree is about 25-feet high. Using these points for a size reference, he estimated the animal weighed about 50 pounds.
The family and neighbors have heard an animal “screaming” in the nearby woods. Tickle said he has heard the noise for four or five years.
“We have heard some screaming in the woods,” he said. “It sounds like a woman or child screaming bloody murder.”
Tickle added that his mother-in-law, who lives nearby, has heard the cries; and his late father-in-law had both heard and seen the animal.
“I thought it was a barn owl,” Tickle stated. “It sounds similar. That was what I thought the last time, but that was before the video. Now I’m not so sure.”
Deer remains have been found in the vicinity. Tickle said his daughter found the remains of a deer Monday in her driveway.
“My daughter yesterday found a deer head and carcass in her driveway,” he said. “It was small, a fawn, judging from the size of it, it was about 30 pounds. It was a small deer.”
A second deer carcass was found near the same location in September.
“It was about a year old,” Tickle said. “It still had its spots.”
Bramwell Mayor Louise Stoker and Police Chief Edwin Vanover said they had not heard reports of any other sightings or reports of pets and other animals being attacked or killed.
A wildlife manager with Division IV of the state Division of Natural Resources, Mark Richardson, watched the video Tuesday. The DNR often receives calls about cougar sightings.
“People call in all the time saying they’ve seen one, but nobody has given any proof. We do not have a wild population of cougars or mountain lions in West Virginia,” he said.
Sometimes the animal turns out to be “a very large house cat. A lot of people mistake a large bobcat for a mountain lion,” he said.
Richardson was not sure what sort of animal was recorded on video.
“It’s definitely a medium-sized animal,” he stated. “It’s not a mountain lion-sized animal. I don’t think it’s that heavy.” Asked about a weight estimate, he said it could weigh approximately 50 pounds. “To me, I’d have to lean toward a bobcat or a gray fox.”
Determining the animal’s exact species, based on the video images, is difficult, he said.
“It’s very hard to identify it on that particular picture. I do believe where it seems to have a tail, it’s a hind leg that’s stuck in back. It’s just hard to be 100 percent on it.”
Tickle said his surveillance system is on “24/7” and videotapes everything seen on the cameras.
“We’ll probably check them more than we usually do,” he said.
— Contact Greg Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org