By David Wilfong
At 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning Ron Gilleland went out the back door of his porch and found quite a surprise waiting in store for him.
“My dogs woke me up and when I got out into the back yard with a spotlight I keep at the back door there was a mountain lion — no, not a bobcat — holding my Boston (Terrier) in his mouth and about to leap the fence with her,” Gilleland recounted. “I yelled and started running towards the cat and it released my dog and jumped over the fence as easily as you would step up a curb.”
Gilleland lives in the heart of residential Rockwall. Just down the hill from the Ridge Road Shopping Center, so the incursion of a mountain lion into his back yard would mean that the animal was literally “walking the streets.”
In communication with his neighbors, Gilleland described the injuries to his dog.
“My dog is in surgery this morning trying to fix all the damage in her head, face and neck,” he stated. “The puncture wounds on the back of her head are more than three inches apart indicating that the fangs on the cat make it a big cat.”
On Wednesday evening Gilleland said that his dog had been through surgery and the outlook was optimistic that the dog would live.
There have been numerous unconfirmed reports of mountain lion sightings in Collin County. The most recent in the news have been along the border of Allen and Lucas, though other sightings have come from heavy residential areas in Plano. Some speculate that the sightings are misidentified accounts of bobcats, which are relatively common to the area.
Gillelands wife, Lee, is quick to point out that her husband is a qualified observer.
“We grew up in West Texas,” she commented. “He’s been hunting his whole life.”
Ron said he’s used to people saying they’ve seen a mountain lion when what they really saw was a bobcat, but that he was only thirty feet away from it with a bright spotlight, so he knows what he saw.
“When it turned and looked at me, it wasn’t even afraid of me,” he said. “Then it just jumped over the chain link fence like it was nothing at all. It really was quite beautiful to see.”
Gilleland also noted that the cat he saw had a tail that was about three feet long. Bobcats have a small, stubbed tail from which it derives its name.
After notifying neighbors of their experience, the Gillelands say they were made aware of missing dogs in the neighborhood.
Kathy Ingram, who lives nearby, stated that her dog had recently disappeared.
“My husband let our 13 year old Boston Terrier out in the evening of Nov. 19,” Ingram recalled. “He said he heard her barking, but since we'd been here nine years and let her out at night, he didn't pay any attention. I went out to bring her in and she was gone. The gates of our 6' iron fence were not open.
“A few weeks earlier, my husband & I saw a coyote trotting down the shoreline heading towards 30. It wasn't quite dark out, so we could clearly see that it was not a dog. The coyote did not look around - it was focused and moved quickly. So when Shasta disappeared, we assumed it was the coyote.
“The mountain lion makes much more sense because it was hard to imagine a coyote jumping the fence so easily, although we were told that they could.
“We live diagonally across from the Gillelands on the shore side of the street. I had heard about the Mountain Lion sightings, but I thought it was over in Plano.”
Ingram also stated that there were other animals that had gone missing in the neighborhood during recent months.
“About mid-December, we saw a sign at the corner of Lake Shore Drive and Summit Ridge - ‘Lost Daschound.’ We noticed it because we thought of the coyote,” Ingam said.
“A few days later, a lady called from further down Lakeshore Dr. - closer to Summit Ridge, saying that her husband had been walking their dog down the shoreline and had found our Shasta's collar. It had been ripped apart. I told her what I thought had happened and she said her neighbors had lost their daschound. I told her we had seen the signs. They had two dogs that went out the doggy door at night and only one came back.”
Chris Valentine with the Rockwall Animal Services department confirmed that they took a report on the incident, but that the issue will have to be handled by Texas Parks and Wildlife.
“We don’t have the equipment to handle anything that big,” she stated.
Valentine said that her department has fielded two ro three calls for mountain lions over the past 10 years, but that no one has ever been able to capture or photograph one to substantiate the reports.
According to Jenny Simpson with the Texas Parks and Wildlife department, mountain lions are not that uncommon for the area.
“My boss has seen them down south on the Rockwall-Kaufman line,” she said.”I’ve had reports of them in the northern part of the county, but nobody’s ever been able to substantiate them.
“As more and more houses are being built out in the county they are being forced out of their natural habitat. You’re going to see more bobcats, more coyotes and more mountain lions.”
Simpson said that both bobcats and mountain lions are known to follow creek beds and railroad tracks, and that if it was a mountain lion that the Gillelands encountered it was probably just “passing through.”
Simpson stated that as a precautionary measure, residents should probably keep their pets indoors at night. A person who personally encounters a mountain lion should remember that the cats are more scared of humans than the other way around.
“I would probably just try to make some noise and spook them,” she said.
Simpson stated that anyone encountering a mountain lion in the City of Rockwall should contact the Texas Department of Wildlife at 972-226-9966.
By David Wilfong
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