Cougar tales: Cat sighting is talk of town in Milton

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Stacy Vogel
January 29, 2008
— Have you heard about the cougar?

Just about everyone in Milton has. The recent cougar sighting on Bowers Lake Road has been the topic of conversation at every gathering spot in the city, locals report.

“Oh Lordy, yes, that’s all the guys talk about is the cougar,” said Sharon, an employee at The Squeeze Inn who preferred not to give her last name.

It seems a lot of Miltonites don’t want to see their names in the newspaper, but they sure have plenty of theories about how a cougar got to Rock County after 100 years without a confirmed sighting.

“We had a customer come in and say she’d had two cougars as pets,” said Ann, a bartender at Scoreboard Bar & Grill. “So that was the big joke. I was like, ‘Did you let them out?’”

Indeed, several people surmised Monday afternoon that the cougar had been someone’s pet.

A few men at Klub Bub said they’d heard a cougar escaped from “some exotic animal preserve in Palmyra or Sharon.”

“No, that is not our cougar,” responded Jill Carnegie, who runs Valley of the Kings Sanctuary and Retreat in Sharon. “In the 36 years we’ve been here, we have never, ever had an escape … There is no way in God’s green earth any (animal) is leaving our property.”

Another group of men at Junction Pub said they believe the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources let the cougar loose three years ago to take out the wild turkey population. One man said the DNR let a second cougar out in Richland Center.

“They said they put that out to kill the deer,” he said.

Doug Fendry, DNR wildlife supervisor, said there’s no truth to the rumors.

“I’ve heard lots of rumors over my career,” he said. “We’ve got people who think we’ve stocked coyotes, and that’s why we have so many coyotes in southern Wisconsin.”

The cougar talk has been enough to scare Heidi Ullius, a bartender at Junction Pub. She’s been driving to work lately instead of walking, she said.

“I’m paranoid about it,” she said.

Another man at the pub, who would identify himself only as Ron, claimed he carries a dead chicken in his pocket in case he runs into the cougar. If he sees the animal, he’ll throw the chicken one way and run the other, he said.

But for all the talk, few claim to have laid eyes on the animal, although one woman said her 37-year-old son had gone out looking for it.

Abib Jonuzi, owner of Milton Family Restaurant, said some customers have claimed a cougar sighting, describing the cat as big and brown.

“The customers come in here and say they’ve seen the cougar, but they don’t tell me where,” he said.

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