By Lindsay Toler
By Chad Garrison
By Brett Koshkin
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Riverfront Times
By Danny Wicentowski
By Pete Kotz
Perhaps you saw the headline:
"Missouri residents say cougars are attacking animals, livestock."
According to the Associated Press, in response to reports in Jefferson County that a buffalo and a horse were recently attacked by a cougar, the Missouri Department of Conservation's Mountain Lion Response Team pounced on the situation.
Yep, that's right: The MDC has a squad devoted to cougars!
That species being one of Unreal's favorites, we naturally had to ring up the team's "president, chairman, whatever you wanna call me," as he puts it — one Jeff Beringer — for a thorough debriefing.
Unreal: Is it true that an indigenous cougar hasn't been seen in Missouri since 1927?
Jeff Beringer: I'd have to say "unknown" to that one. We've had ten confirmed cougar sightings since 1994. We're pretty rigorous in our testing and our fieldwork when it comes to determining whether a sighting or track or scat or kill is from a cat, dog, mountain lion or bear. We've had thousands of reports of cougars that didn't pan out.
I was thinking cougars were a more recent phenomenon around these parts. Was there, by the way, any correlation between the release of Sex and the City, the movie, and the creation of your team?
Oh, wow, let me think here. I haven't seen the movie. So I can't answer that with any credibility. I don't get HBO either.
Dang! You're missing out on a whole lot of cougar activity. Tell me, how many guys are on your squad?
How old are they?
They range in age from kinda old to very old: nobody under 30.
No cougar prey.
Not strong candidates, no.
Tell me about the sexiest cougar sighting that your team confirmed.
In my opinion that would be the cat that was actually hit by a car over near Fulton, Missouri. We had the carcass and it was easy to confirm it was, in fact, a cougar, but the questionable part was: Is this a wild cat or a domestic or tame cat that escaped or was released? This cat had eaten a squirrel, but the squirrel had fly eggs on it, so that suggested the squirrel was dead when the cat ate it. It didn't have any Purina Cat Chow in its belly, which you might expect from a tame cat.
What about these alleged cougar attacks on a buffalo and a horse in JeffCo?
It doesn't make sense to me. I've attended some cougar workshops. Cats don't generally — or very rarely do they — attack anything that big. There are deer around, small animals, too, and the wounds that those animals had aren't consistent with what a cougar would do.
Have you seen cougs stalking younger animals?
Yeah. You know cougars. We spent a fair amount of time out in New Mexico, where they have quite a few cougars, and on this ranch the cougars are more interested in eating young deer and some wild turkeys. There's some strategy that goes into that.
What about urban versus rural cougars: Have you noticed a difference?
I don't have a lot of experience with cougars in urban settings. But I do read a lot about this in California. The urban cougars may have a little different behavior; they're a little more cryptic, probably. They lie around during the day and do their feeding at night.
Is it frightening to hunt for cougars?
No, it's exciting.
Could a cougar kill with her looks?
Ow! Oh, maybe another cougar.
Where does she like to bite?
Behind the ears.
What kind of um, protective gear does your squad wear?
Our biggest concern is picking up some kind of a parasite or disease. There was a person that died from doing a necropsy on a cougar out west; he picked up the plague, I think. We don't have the plague here in Missouri. But you do wear rubber gloves.
You could probably wear latex, yeah.
Wiener Joke Goes Here
Three men ate one hot dog, every hour, for twenty-four hours. It was a fea(s)t that no man had ever attempted. A hot-diggity-dawg of an adventure, captured on film and dubbed the Tour de Frankfurter.
So it was that Mike Flynn, Mike Merenda and Chris Files, of ToastedRav.com, showed up on 9/11 in the Loop in a loaned Hummer, its windows painted with the most earnest of mottos: "I LOVE WEENIES." They arrived at 1 p.m. for dog No. 6, having already scratched Courtesy Diner, Denny's and Gus' Pretzels off their foot-long list. At Gingham's Homestyle Restaurant they'd consumed a third-of-a-pound dog slathered with bacon and American cheese atop a buttered hoagie bun. At Carl's Drive-In they ate a fried dog scored and presented in a circular fashion, condiments in the middle. Later they would plug an actual "hot-dog toaster" into the Hummer's cigarette lighter and do the road dog. But that wouldn't be till 4 a.m. We're getting ahead of ourself.
Unreal arrived for our appointed rendezvous at Pam's Chicago-Style Dogs & More a few minutes early, ready to do some intestinal damage. Flynn, Merenda and Files, though, were feeling a little dicey. The buns were giving them trouble.