Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 9th, 2008
In Amazing Indeed: Strange Events in the Black Forest Vol. 2, Robert R. Lyman, Sr., 1973, The Potter Enterprise, Coudersport, PA, on page 70, can be found this intriguing passage:
Bobcats with Long Tails September 1951.
Strange animals appear at times and no one can say for sure what they are. Such an animal was caught in a fox trap south of Wharton by Lynn Wycoff. Since it was an unusual specimen, Wykoff [name is rendered both ways in the article] decided to keep it alive. With the help of his father, he managed to free it from the trap and get it into a steel bear cage. He was scratched on the face and severely bitten on a thumb.
Hundreds of persons saw the captured animal but nobody seemed to know what it was. All agreed that it was a nasty tempered snarling beast.
The Wykoffs named her Bertha because the father said, “I once knew a womn by that name who had a temper just like this animal.”
“Sure, I’d call it a wildcat and let it go at that,” said Lynn, “But who ever saw a wildcat with a tail like that!” The caudal appendage was about one foot long. Prior to 1840, Burrell Lyman of Roulet could have answered Lynn. One year he killed 2 bobcats with long tails. At least he said they were bobcats.
One aspect of the cat’s behavior intrigued many who saw it. Regardless of the number facing it, the cat wheeled and followed anybody moving around the cage. “Guess Bertha just doesn’t trust people,” said Lynn.
Three months after this animal was captured, Lynn said, “It is a big cat now. Nobody can tell me that it is a bobcat. Their color lightens as they grow older but this animal’s color has not changed”. Is it any better tempered? “Not a bit, if anything it’s worse.”
The tail of this “long-tailed bobcat” was said to be a foot long. Common bobcats (Lynx rufus) have a a stubby 4 to 7 inch (10–18 cm) tail.
Was it really a bobcat? Or a surviving “Eastern Panther” (Puma concolor couguar), a puma thought to be extinct in the East by 1951? Or some other mystery felid?
It should be noted that the young of the puma, the mountain lion cub (above from here) does display spots like a bobcat and does have a long tail. Perhaps Mr. Wykoff caught a young puma in his trap, and as mentioned, when it grew up, it lost its spots.
A puma cub (above) can look a lot like a bobcat (below).
Or perchance, this area of Pennsylvania has a strange genetic mutation: bobcats with long tails?
My thanks to Chris Woodyard at Invisible Ink Books for reminding me of this passage in Robert R. Lyman, Sr.’s classic book.