May 08, 2005

Cryptozoology for fun and profit

M.'s possible fisher sighting produced diverse reactions.

Naturalist-writer friend #1 thought that it was perfectly possible, that the "experts" don't always know what's out there.

Naturalist-writer friend #2 said no, there are absolutely no fishers in Colorado, and it had to have been a pine marten, a really really big one. (And the habitat would be right for a pine marten, too.)

Emotionally, I wish that #1 was right. After all, before 1990 there were officially no Mexican spotted owls in this part of Colorado, although perhaps a few dedicated birders knew otherwise. Then a lawsuit against the US Fish and Wildlife Service forced the government to conduct a census. The local Bureau of Land Management office hired us--we spent five summers looking for spotted owls, and we found several breeding pairs and individuals. The population is not large, but it is here.

And there were no grizzly bears left in Colorado until Ed Wiseman killed an elderly sow griz in 1979 in the Southern San Juan Mountains. There are still officially no grizzly bears, but it is illegal to kill one.

On the other hand, #2 is a guy who practically lives in the woods and certainly knows his Colorado pine martens.

So we're left with a little mystery.

Of course, if you want real mystery beasts, you can't beat Wisconsin, which has werewolves. Reporter Linda S. Godfrey has two books out on the topic.

Wisconsin may be "a key 'window area' with many portals from other dimensions," as Godfrey said in a recent Fate magazine interview, but we have the San Luis Valley, in the next county west of here.

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