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Have you seen a "ghost cat?"

PENN YAN—The Department of Environmental Conservation says that there are no “big cats” in New York state, but that is not what some people have seen. “Ghost Cats of Central New York” is a book about the sightings and stories of big cats such as cougars, mountain lions or pumas in New York. Authors Bruce and Mary Anne Thon, of Penn Yan, have several stories from Yates County. Both authors have been volunteer investigators for the Eastern Puma Research Network (EPRN) since 1999. In that time they have recorded close to 300 sightings in central New York. Sightings in the book are from Dundee, Italy, Tyrone, Himrod, around Keuka Lake, as well from elsewhere in central New York. Though it is from 1999, one sighting is from Bluff Point. The person had been out bow hunting and happened upon a large black cat. The meeting was brief and the cat ran off. The cat sighting on the next page was witnessed by a school bus driver and 11 students in Dundee. It happened in March of 2001 on the bus ride home. The bus came to a stop when bus driver Greg Wright saw a “100 pound brown cougar” sitting on some farm equipment. Seeing the bus though, it ran away. The witnesses were later interviewed on TV. Another Keuka Lake witness knew he had seen two cougars because he had been raised in the Adirondack Mountains and could tell the different between big cats. This sighting also happened in 2001 where he saw two “ghost cats.” Two hunters, and Mennonites near Himrod, had reportedly seen a panther in the area. While the two raccoon hunters saw the dark cat at night, it was with a flashlight and during a three hour chase. Another panther sighting is on the next page, by a couple from the Utica area. Twice the two saw a large black cat on their back property and then later cub too. No date is given for when it happened, though. A sighting in Italy startled one woman so much as she was about to leave a friend’s house that she decided to stay the night. The friend had also seen a large cat creeping about the property a few days earlier. One story is that the DEC had released four cougars and 20 coyotes in Schuyler County several years ago. The book says, though, that this is a well circulated story that the DEC said is not true. The provided photos in the book are not up close, but they do show some evidence of big cats in the area. In 38 pages, the accounts are short with most fitting on one page. Most of the accounts are very short, because the sightings happened quickly, reinforcing the nickname “ghost cats.” However, the stories are gathered here and it might be a starting point for anyone interested in finding out a little more about animals the DEC has not officially recognized as in the area yet. They are from over the years the Thons have been recording the sightings and by Norm Davis before them. However, there are no sightings that happened very recently, at least that was reported to the EPRN. The book is available to order by calling the Thons at 315-536-1269. The price for the book is under $15.

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