A woman, who wished to remain anonymous, brought in several photographs of what she believed to be cougar tracks. She found the tracks in her vegetable garden next to her home, which is not far from the Old Spurrier Mill.
"It's no bobcat, she said, "because I've caught a glimpse of it a couple times. It has a long, bushy tail, not a short one."
As all good reporters try to do, we wanted to get to the bottom of this story. After all, this was the first time we received any type of possible visual evidence of cougar activity in Grayson County.
In an effort to identify the tracks, we sent the photographs to two independent research groups who specialize in cougar (mountain lion) activity and sightings.
The Eastern Cougar Foundation (ECF), located in Harman, West Virginia, and the Eastern Puma Research Network (EPRN), located in Maysville, West Virginia, both called us within hours of seeing our story on our website and expressed serious interest in taking a look at the pictures we had.
After a careful and thorough examination of the photographs, the ECF determined that the tracks were definitely made by a dog.
According to Helen McGinnis, a Program Officer with the ECF, "the toes are arranged symmetrically in relation to the large central heel pad, whereas cat tracks are asymmetrical."
In her report she also cited two other reasons for this determination:
"The claws are well defined and broad. Cat tracks don't usually show claws, and when they do, the claws are narrow.
Finally, the heel pad is pointed in front and concave in the rear, as it is in dogs. The heel pad of a cat is two-lobed or squared off in front and tends to be tri-lobed in the rear. You can observe these characteristics in any domestic cat track, " McGinnis said.
However, we wanted to get a second opinion, just to be sure.
The EPRN returned the same verdict as the ECF.
According to John A. Lutz, Director of the EPRN, "after a careful review of the enclosed photographs by Dr. Jack Barr, a retired wildlife biologist, we have determined the pictures are those of a canine animal, and in all probability, the tracks were made by a large dog."
So there you have it, two independent studies have reached the same conclusion, the paw prints which were photographed and brought in were definitely made by a dog.
Yet, many people still claim to see the elusive and camera-shy cougar.
As we run stories about potential cougar sightings, the calls come flooding into the office with reports of cougar sightings in all parts of the county.
We can neither confirm nor deny many of these sightings, and until a picture of an actual cougar is brought in or some other type of hard evidence is produced the cougar mystery remains just that, a mystery.