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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fortean / Alternative News: Missouri Cougar, Alien Hand Syndrome and Mystery Goo

Camera captures cougar in Missouri

stltoday - It's impossible to mistake the big cat in the grainy black and white pictures — not with that distinct patch of white hair at its mouth, the muscled jaw line, bulging shoulders and sleek profile.

Call it a cougar, puma or panther.

The question is: What's it doing in Chesterfield?

The Missouri Department of Conservation isn't quite sure, but most likely the mountain lion was just passing through in search of territory or a mate.

The pictures taken Jan. 12 from a stationary wildlife camera mark the first confirmed sighting in St. Louis County since 1994, and the 13th in the state.

The department hasn't ruled out that the cougar might belong to one of the 32 people in the state who have permits to keep captive mountain lions. It's checking with them, conservation spokesman Joe Jerek said.

In the pictures, the cat is making its way around a tree. Its head is slung low, eyes set aglow from the camera's flash. You can't tell the lion's sex or age, the department said.

Although cougar sightings are rare, there have been three in the state since November. The other two were in rural Platte and Ray counties north of Kansas City. Jerek noted that both of those were also near the Missouri River, and it's likely the cougars were simply following the river.

The camera that captured the images of the mountain lion was set up by Chesterfield resident Garrett Jensen, a hunter and outdoors enthusiast. Jensen installed the Reconyx HC600 camera on a tree to monitor wildlife in the woods behind his home near Olive Boulevard and White Road.

The camera, which is triggered by heat and movement, automatically snapped a series of photos about 2:30 a.m. on Jan 12. Jensen was out of town at the time and discovered the images after he returned home and retrieved the memory card and combed through 2,000 shots.

"I was like, 'Oh, my God,' I really couldn't believe it had happened," said Jensen, 36, the owner of a tree service company. "I feel really lucky. ... I called everyone close to me and said, 'You're not going to believe this, I caught a mountain lion on my camera.'"

Jensen said conservation officials told him the cat appeared to have weighed about 120 pounds. A Missouri Wildlife Response Team at the site Wednesday did not find any tracks — snow on the ground when the cat appeared had melted — or fur but were still hopeful of finding a DNA sample from the woods, Jensen said.

"While we did not find further evidence, such as tracks, we can confirm that the photos are of a mountain lion at the reported location," said Jeff Beringer, a member of the team, said in statement.

Jensen installed the wildlife camera only six days before the mountain lion appeared. He picked the location based on the presence of several wildlife trails. The spot is between his home and a lake, making it a popular crossroads for creatures big and small.

In addition to the mountain lion, Jensen's camera captured shots of countless deer, squirrels, raccoons and a coyote. Jensen said he put up the camera to see if he would have any success bow-hunting deer on his property.

"It's almost just as fulfilling to me to capture stuff like this on camera than to go hunting and try to kill it," Jensen said. "I almost get the same rush with the camera that I do when I go hunting."

Mountain lions were largely driven from the state by deforestation and hunting by the 1920s. The state hasn't had a breeding population in decades. The closest groups of cougars live in Nebraska and South Dakota, Jerek said. But their range is immense. "They can travel for hundreds of miles," Jerek said.

Despite the recent sightings, there's no evidence suggesting mountain lions are re-establishing a population in Missouri, the Conservation Department said.

"In states where even small populations of these big cats exist, there is plenty of hard evidence," Beringer said. "Florida, for example, has a population of only 100 mountain lions, yet several are killed by automobiles each year. They also have other clear, hard evidence like tracks, scat and kill sites."


'Alien Hand Syndrome' sees woman attacked by her own hand

An operation to control her epilepsy left Karen Byrne with no control of her left hand. The 55-year-old from New Jersey, now suffers from Alien Hand Syndrome.

Her left hand, and occasionally her left leg, behaves as if it were under the control of an alien intelligence.

Karen had emerged from the operation with a left hand that was out of control. Karen was unlucky. After the operation, the right side of her brain refused to be dominated by the left.

She has now suffered from Alien Hand Syndrome for 18 years, but fortunately for Karen her doctors have now found a medication that seems to have brought the right side of her brain back under some form of control.

Click for video


Fossil female pterosaur found with preserved egg

BBC - For fossil hunters, it represents one of those breakthrough moments.

A pterosaur has been found in China beautifully preserved with an egg.

The egg indicates this ancient flying reptile was a female, and that realisation has allowed researchers to sex these creatures for the first time.

Writing in Science magazine, the palaeontologists make some broad statements about gender differences in pterosaurs, including the observation that only males sported a head-crest.

David Unwin, a palaeobiologist in the Department of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, was part of the research team.

He told the BBC the discovery was astonishing: "If somebody had said to me a few years back that we would find this kind of association, I would just have laughed and said, 'yeah, maybe in a million years', because these sorts of things are incredibly rare."

Pterosaurs, also sometimes referred to as pterodactyls, dominated the skies in the Mesozoic Era, 220-65 million years ago. Although reptiles like the dinosaurs were plodding on the ground below them, they were not actually dinosaurs themselves - a common misconception.

This particular specimen has been dated to about 160 million years ago.

It was found by Junchang Lü and colleagues and excavated from sedimentary rocks in the famous fossil-hunting grounds of Liaoning Province in China. Liaoning has yielded many of the great finds in recent years, including a series of feathered dinos that have transformed thinking on bird evolution.

The new creature is from the Darwinopterus genus, or grouping, but has been dubbed simply as "Mrs T" (a contraction of "Mrs Pterodactyl") by the research team.

The state of the egg's shell suggests it was well developed and that Mrs T must have been very close to laying it when she died.

She appears to have had some sort of accident as her left forearm is broken. The researchers speculate she may have fallen from the sky during a storm or perhaps a volcanic eruption, sunk to the bottom of a lake and then been preserved in the sediments.

"The most important thing about this particular individual is that she has a relatively large pelvis compared to other individuals of the same pterosaur, Darwinopterus," explained Dr Unwin.

"This seems quite reasonable - females lay eggs, they probably need a slightly wider pelvis. And then the really exciting thing is that she has a skull which lacks any kind of adornment or decoration whatsoever. When we look at other individuals of Darwinopterus, we find quite a few individuals with a large crest on the skull.

"We're very confident now that we're dealing with two genders here - males with big crests and small hips, and females with no crest on the skull and large hips."


Mystery goo falls from the sky

dailymail - The FAA has launched an investigation after a mysterious greenish-yellow goo fell from the skies and splattered homes in Snyder, New York on Tuesday.

Homes along Washington Highway and Berryman Drive are now coated in yellow or green icicles. Walls and pavements are splashed with a bizarre deep brown substance.

Neighbours said the mystery substance appeared between the hours of 9am and midnight on Tuesday.

However the FAA swiftly launched an investigation and discarded that possibility.

A spokesman told ABC: 'The local flight standards inspectors investigated the situation and determined it was not from an aircraft.'

So what could it be?

The town waste engineer said they are looking in to it - and have already come across some rather distasteful theories.

'We received a call this morning from a woman who owns a house on the same street, Washington Highway. She gave us her explanation because it happened to her last year,' Lisa Kistner, a spokesman for the Amherst Town Supervisor's Office, told ABC.

'She said it's actually because the seagulls eat fast food at McDonald's, which upsets their digestive tract,' Ms Kistner explained.

And, Ms Kistner said, as soon as the woman convinced fast food restaurants to clean up the rubbish in their parking lots, she no longer had that problem.

'She suggested that someone check the fast food parking lots because that is probably the root cause of this issue,' Ms Kistner said.

The woman's bizarre account may not be that far enough. Bird experts who have examined images of the goo actually agree they do resemble bird droppings - though seagulls were ruled innocent.

Instead, according to Cornell's Lab of Ornithology, the droppings may be from a large flock of birds often found in upstate New York in January - European starlings.

But with the town's engineers still doing tests, locals will, for now, simply have to wait a bit longer - and perhaps invest in a good umbrella or two.