Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · The cougar controversy
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The cougar controversy

Anne Stanton - February 16th, 2009
The cougar controversy
Anne Stanton 2/16/09

At 4 a.m. on January 31, Dan Kaizer was at the tail-end of his newspaper route, driving his Chevy Silverado on South Betsie Road near Bendon in Benzie County.
About 100 yards down the road, he saw something walking slowly across the road. He was doing 45 mph, so he gained on the creature quickly. As he slowed down a bit, he figured it was some kind of cat.
“When I got up to about 50, 60 yards away in my high beams, I could see it as plain as day. It was a cougar with a long black tail, jet black, it was crouched down in a prey position, slowly walking. I guarantee he was stalking some deer.
“In fact, the cougar had come off a deer trail on one side of the road and jumped up about six feet to the deer trail where it continued on the north side of the road.”
Could he have confused it with a bobcat? After all, lots of people do.
Kaizer laughed. “Wanna come to my house?” Turns out, he has a mounted bobcat—a trophy from an out-of-state hunt.
Kaizer hasn’t told the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) of his sighting because he considers it a waste of time.
And so it would seem. Without a clear photo showing the woods behind the cat, a photo of the paw print with a ruler next to it, a clear video, a carcass, or a hair sample from the bumper, the DNR doesn’t really want to hear about it. Kaizer’s story also sounds suspect, said one DNR official, because the cougar was black, a species that isn’t even native to this country.

Area DNR employees, quite frankly, are intensely and deeply skeptical that there are any cougars in Michigan, be it an escaped pet or otherwise. How can it be, they ask, that so many hundreds of people have claimed to see a cougar, and yet there’s been so little evidence?
Area DNR officers have checked out call after call of cougar sightings, only to find out it was a dog or a bobcat—there are lots of bobcats in Northwest Michigan. Every time there’s a news article, there are lots more of these kinds of calls and more dead-ends.
Then there’s the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. Signs are posted throughout the park, warning about cougars. About 10 to 15 people each year report they’ve seen a cougar, including a volunteer doing trail surveys.
So how come no one has been able to come up with one photo of a track or a video? a DNR conservation officer asked.
“We did research the one winter in 2004/2005. And we admit we have to do summer surveys,” said Lakeshore Biologist Ken Hyde.
“Cougars are hard to lure in. Baits don’t work real well, nor do scents. The tribes have been doing quite a few track surveys all over the Lower Peninsula, and they have not come up with a good set of cougar tracks. But at least we’re keeping the public informed that this is a possibility, and it would be a great addition to a predator base around Lake Michigan,”
It’s a good question: how come, with the thousands of trail-cams posted in the entire state of Michigan has no one been able to come up with a good video?
Even when there is evidence, the DNR is skeptical. Anyone can draw a paw print in the sand. Anyone can alter a cougar photo with Photoshop. A car bumper with hair on it? Could have been driven in from anywhere. Even when there is a cougar, the DNR says it’s an escaped pet or it wandered in from another state.
As it turns out, there has been solid evidence, much of it presented at a state Senate subcommittee meeting just a few days before Kaizer saw his cougar. Veterinarians, scientists, and just plain folks brought forth their evidence and stories of sightings before the Senate Agriculture and Bioeconomy Committee, chaired by Gerald Van Woerkom, a Republican from Muskegon.
“People are so angry at how they’ve been treated by the DNR, this is all going to unravel,” said Dennis Fijalkowski, executive director of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, which has been trying to prove the cougar’s existence since it formed in 1982.
“A Democrat in the hearing asked every speaker, ‘How were you treated by the DNR?’ This senator had been getting ugly mail about people being made fools of, and they don’t like it. It’s been going on for 40 years, people being discredited and being made fools of in the press. Our citizens are not frauds, and we’re all sick of being treated this way. Forty years is enough!”
Yet Fijalkowski said that about 100 DNR employees had sighted a cougar, and half of them reported the sightings to his group.
Included in the evidence was a videotape of a cougar and her nearly grown cub in Monroe County. The video was analyzed by a retired Michigan State Police lieutenant, who deemed the video had not been tampered with; but the DNR does not believe the animals are cougars. There have also been numerous scat samples, which were confirmed by the DNR from several sites around the state.

There was also a photo of a track found nearly a year ago in Delta County (the Upper Peninsula) by Mike Zuidema, a member of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy. The DNR congratulated Zuidema on diligently preserving the evidence.
“Mike was 34 years with the DNR, and they called him a liar when he reported his first cougar. So he spent the next 29 years trying to find proof, all the while being called Crazy Mike by his colleagues,” Fijalkowski said. “When he found 200 yards of track, he pulled the DNR out there and they just couldn’t deny it.”
Five years ago, a car hit a large cat in Menominee County. Hair was taken off the bumper and a DNA test confirmed that it was, in fact, a cougar. A special team of DNR biologists, sent out West to study the large cats, agreed that the animal was a cougar.
“We have that evidence for a reason and one reason only. The hair was pulled off by a state trooper who was incorruptible and he made the DNR do a test on it. They had to release the information because a state trooper was in the chain of evidence,” Fijalkowski said.
Van Woerkom asked during the hearing why the DNR is so adamant about denying there’s a breeding population in the state.
“When reliable people tell you they saw a cougar with kittens, that’s pretty good evidence,” Van Woerkom was quoted in a Detroit Free Press article. “I’ve been bringing this up with the DNR for three or four years and they just kind of blow it off, saying we have no physical evidence. But that’s not true. We have physical evidence, and it looks like (cougars) stretch from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.”
Van Woerkom speculated that the underlying reason is money. The agency would have to protect cougars as mandated by the Endangered Species Act.
But area DNR officials—some who declined to be interviewed on the record—compare cougar sightings to seeing a UFO. There is no conspiracy; they simply have not seen any solid evidence collected in this area, although they’ve heard lots of stories.

Mary Lapalme, also of Bendon, wasn’t able to collect evidence, but has absolutely no doubt she saw a cougar.
“Mine happened two years ago in the spring. I was coming home from the Interlochen Library, and I take the back roads home. I was on Gonder Road and turned the corner coming onto Rose, and I saw a cat across the road. From where I was, you could see the silhouette of an actual cat. I didn’t think anything of it. But as I drove further along the road, I thought, whoa, this is a big cat. It has to be a bobcat. So I crawled to the stop where it crossed the road, and this cougar was sitting on the edge of the road. We had a 10-minute stare-down. It was just very cool. I was memorizing every aspect of him. The color of his fur, which was brown, the color of deer. He was sitting on his haunches; we were eye to eye level. His head was gi-normous. I turned the car off because I didn’t want to scare him, but there was no way I was going to crack the window. So there I was, sitting in this car, no way to call anybody, no way to take a picture. It was terrible, all this technology and no way to record it.”
Lapalme drove off, leaving the cougar still sitting on the side of the road.
“That’s my story. I went back to the library, and we did a search for cougars on the computer. And that’s what I saw.”
Lapalme, who now has a cell phone with a camera, said she has also seen giant cat tracks in her backyard, which abuts state and federal land. The Bendon area has a huge swamp, populated by large deer herds. If the sightings were indeed correct, there are two cougars in the Bendon area.

Kaizer thinks cougars have lived in the swamp for decades.
“I went to the Bendon Heritage Festival this past summer, and I got to talking to some old timers from around here, and one gentleman who lives near Copemish said he has pictures of a tawny colored cougar in his backyard.”
Kaizer didn’t get the name of the man with the photo.
Veterinarian Jennifer Klabunde of Northwood Animal Hospital said she knows the issue of cougars is controversial, but has no doubt there are cougars in the Bendon area. One client from Bendon brought in a clear and unmistakable photo of two cougars chasing down a deer in broad daylight. The photo was taken down the street from Klabunde’s own veterinary practice, which is in Grawn, about seven miles from Bendon. The landmarks in the photo were undisputable.
“She didn’t give the photo to the DNR for fear they’d just say ‘no.’ Plus it would jut cause chaos and what’s the point of it?” said Klabunde, adding that the woman kept the photo. She was unable to remember her name.
Klabunde recently treated a dog that she believes was attacked by a cougar.
“The space between the canine was massive. The space between the top and the bottom canines was way too huge. It wasn’t a dog or a coyote. And I’ve seen a bite from a bobcat; I know how big they are. There was too much space.”
Klabunde said the skin had been pulled entirely off the dog’s back. She didn’t measure the span of the bite.
The sheltie recovered completely, but died from cancer two months later.
Rich Earle, a wildlife biologist of the Traverse City DNR office, said that a small dog would never have survived a cougar attack. It was more likely an attack by a coyote or bobcat. In fact, most people who believe they saw a cougar actually saw a bobcat or coyote.
Klabunde agreed the kill would have been instantaneous, but the owner interrupted the attack.
“The owner heard some noise, came out, flicked on the light, and scared it off immediately. I agree that otherwise, it would have been dead.”

ONE IN 100...
Earle has been involved with these reports for years. Back in 1995, he received a hair sample from a cougar that was hit by a motorist in Iron County. He said last week, in an Express interview, that a policeman collected some hair off the bumper and gave it to a DNR conservation officer, who sent it to him. Lyle compared it to a hair specimen from a cougar in the Traverse City zoo. He couldn’t do a DNA analysis at the time, because it didn’t contain the root. But the hair samples looked similar. He said the hair sample is now in the DNR archives.
“I could not vouch for the validity of the sample,” Earle said. “The chain of evidence was not present at all. I have no real idea of where it came from.”
But you just said …
Bob Butz, an outdoor writer who lives in Traverse City, said he followed this whole issue for five years for his book on cougars in the United States, titled Beast of Never, Cat of God. He agrees with the DNR that 99 out 100 times people have actually seen something else besides a cougar, but then there’s that 100th time.
He himself saw a cougar in the Houghton Lake area with paws as “big as pies” and a “long-ass f*#! tail.”
Butz did what any good researchers do. He measured the paw prints—the length and width of the track was nearly a perfect four-inch square. Stride length, 26 inches. Pat Rusz of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, who was with Butz on the cougar search, went back to his truck to fetch his camera to take photos. By the time he got back to the tracks, the sun had gone down and the flash washed out the detail. A rare chance for evidence had faded with the sunlight.

Butz, who is nearly as skeptical as the DNR about cougar sightings, agrees the standard of evidence should be very high. When hiking or in the car, always have a camera with you. If you see a cougar, look immediately for tracks and scat. Lay down a ruler or some object with a known length next to the track for scale. If you don’t have a camera with you, cover the track with a bucket to protect the track. If you take a photo of the cougar, try to include landscape in the background.
There are a few websites that collect evidence and stories of sightings including the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, savethecougar.org and Michigan Citizens for Cougar Recognition. Sightings of cougars may be reported to the DNR on-line at www.michigan.gov/dnr under Wildlife and Habitat -Wildlife Observations. If you have physical evidence of a cougar (scat, tracks, or carcass), contact your local DNR Operations Service Center.
Yet Kaizer and others are gunshy about calling the DNR about a cougar sighting. He said that if he ever hits a cougar with his car, his first call will be to the media and the Michigan State Police… And then the DNR.
“That’s the only way to bring out the truth. If you fight the DNR, you’ll lose. They think it’s the same as believing in UFOs, so why bother?”
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