On their way to Tractor Supply on a recent weekend around 1:30 p.m., Pamela Eppinger and Jim Coldiron saw a surprising sight.
“We were driving down through Brandywine along the river, coming around a curve, and I look into the woods and I see a cat about the size of a golden retriever, a little larger,” Coldiron said. “It looked like it was prowling for food.”
Eppinger heard him gasp and described seeing a big fawn-colored cat with a black tip on its tail, she said.
“I’m an outdoorsman. I take people hunting. I know what I saw,” said Coldiron, originally from North Carolina. “It didn’t care about traffic.”
Coldiron said he thought he heard a cougar scream a couple months ago while walking into his Pennsylvania home but didn’t see anything.
“If you’ve heard it, you can never forget it,” he said of the animal’s roar.
Eppinger said she had a friend who told her she saw paw prints under her window, suspected to be those of a cougar, in Landenberg, Pennsylvania, several years ago.
Having grown up in an area with cougars and familiar with their nature, Coldiron recommends people throw their arms out like a jumping jack and scream if they’re ever too close to one. Having a safety whistle can also help disorient the animal and cause it to flee.
“You just gotta make yourself seem like you’re not appetizing, you’re not one to tango with,” he said.
The pair said they haven’t seen the cougar since, but have heard others talk about their cougar sightings after posting their story on Nextdoor.
Denise Kunzig, who lives in Orchard Valley on Bayard Road in Pennsylvania, claims she saw a cougar right before Thanksgiving as she was walking her dog at 9:30 p.m.
“I’m looking up, and I see an animal walking right out of the woods. It’s kind of crossing the street,” she said. “I’m a good 60, 65 feet away from it.”
Too big to be a fox, too small to be a deer and not a dog without a human walking it, she wondered what it was. A few moments later it spotted her and her dog, she said.
“At this point, it takes a few steps toward me. It sits on the ground. I start thinking, ‘My cat sits like that. That’s a cat. A big cat,’” she said. “It got back up and started walking toward us. I took a few steps, walking backward down the street.”
The animal followed her and her dog for a bit, but eventually ran away. Kunzig then flagged a car down and had a neighbor drive her up the street to her home as she was too afraid to walk past the area where the large cat had emerged, she said.
“I just know that I saw some type of mountain lion or cougar,” she said. “No one can tell me that I saw a deer or some other type of lie.”
Kunzig described the animal as having tan coloring, a round head and measuring about 5 feet long.
“It didn’t run after me. It was calm. It walked out of the woods calmly, walked toward me calmly. … There was distance between us but I was still scared,” she said.
Since then, Kunzig said she always carries her phone with her, which she didn’t have that night, and stays close to the townhomes in her development instead of venturing near the woods.
FURRY FRIENDS:The most popular dog breed in Delaware may surprise you
Other people shared their cougar stories.
“Right in the middle of the road, almost in front of my brother-in-law’s house on Highland Road, was this big cat,” said David Williams, 82. “He stopped. He acted like he had a bone caught in his teeth or something. He had his mouth wide open and was flexing. Right in front of me.”
This happened around 10 a.m. on Williams’ way back from a doctor’s appointment, the reason he remembers it so vividly.
Williams is originally from west Texas, a place where cougars are plentiful, so he’s familiar with their appearance and mannerisms.
The animal then went into the backyards of a couple houses so Williams drove to the next street thinking the animal would walk by again. Sure enough, it crossed the road and disappeared into a swampy area, he said.
“This one was acting like it was tame,” he said. “This one made no sound. It was walking very quickly. It did not roar.”
Although Williams remained on the lookout for a period of time after, camera in tow to hopefully snag a pic, he never saw the animal again.
“I’ll tell you, they’re big cats, and it was really surprising to see this one,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
The state Division of Fish and Wildlife said there are several reports of cougar sightings a year, but none has been substantiated.
“Confirmed cougar sightings have not occurred in Delaware for decades, the state has not taken any recent action associated with cougars and there are no current plans to deal with this … species,” said Rob Hossler, wildlife administrator for DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.
According to Hossler, there were documented cases of released cougars in the state in the early 1990s, but they were never captured and are assumed to have died of natural causes.
During the afternoon on Sep. 13, 1996, Kathe Worrell of Landenberg, Pennsylvania, said she saw a cougar near Yorklyn off Sharpless Road, the location of her old home at the end of a cul-de-sac.
“The reason I remember is because it’s the day we moved into our last house in Ashlynn Ridge,” she said. “I was unloading boxes in the bedroom and happened to look up and thought, ‘Oh, there’s a deer.’”
After some thought, she realized that a deer doesn’t have the same gait as the animal she saw. Her home backed up to woods and was vacant for a long time before her family moved in, a possible reason the animal made an appearance that day, she said.
Despite only seeing it from behind, she could tell it was the size and color of a deer but had cat’s paws and a tail like a cougar.
“It was almost eye-level as it was walking up the street. It was sashaying back and forth like it owned the road.”
Need to take Fido to the vet?:What should pet owners do if every veterinarian is booked? Here’s what your local vets say