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What animal produces this cry?
May 15, 2006 8:39 AM   Subscribe

The other night my wife and I heard a creature calling in the woods, near our house, for about half an hour. It was an alarming cry that neither of us have heard after a lifetime of living in the woods of central Virginia. Naturally, we recorded the sound (190k MP3) knowing we could just Ask Metafilter. Can anybody ID this critter?
posted by waldo to Science & Nature (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Sounds like a cougar roaring (mountain lion, puma, etc.) Basically a big forest-going feline.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:43 AM on May 15, 2006


Sounds more like a canine bark to me. Maybe a wolf or coyote?
posted by bjork24 at 8:44 AM on May 15, 2006


We had a coyote kill a neighbor's dog recently. (At least, it's assumed that it was a coyote -- they kill dogs to assert dominance over their territory.) It's our concern that it might be a coyote, in which case I'm going to have to get a larger-caliber rifle.
posted by waldo at 8:46 AM on May 15, 2006


It's our concern that it might be a coyote, in which case I'm going to have to get a larger-caliber rifle.

Not sure about Virginia, but coyotte's are protected in some states. Make sure the game warden isn't anywhere near by.

Not sure what that sound is either, I've never heard it before. Doesn't sound the coyotte's in my area (central Mass.)
posted by inthe80s at 8:53 AM on May 15, 2006


I can't tell you what it is, but I would be very surprised if that is a coyote. I've spent lots of time around coyotes - even had a pack jump over me in my sleeping bag - and have never heard them make a sound like that.
posted by a22lamia at 8:58 AM on May 15, 2006


Not sure about Virginia, but coyotte's are protected in some states. Make sure the game warden isn't anywhere near by.

In Virginia there's a continuous open season on coyotes on private property. Many counties -- though not mine -- have a bounty on them.
posted by waldo at 9:03 AM on May 15, 2006


I've heard wild coyotes before and they didn't sound like that. It sounds a lot more like the sound files ikkyu2 linked to, but according to the range map on this page, there shouldn't be any wild mountain lions anywhere near Virginia. Maybe it's a captive big cat that's escaped.
posted by driveler at 9:04 AM on May 15, 2006


A little low pitched but could be an owl. They can make some very weird sounds.
posted by bukvich at 9:09 AM on May 15, 2006


I wonder if it was a fisher? They are known to exist in Virginia. Where I live in Massachusetts their populations seem to be pretty big currently - I know three people who have sighted them just this year. I can't find any sound recording, but they are suppose to have a very unique call.
posted by a22lamia at 9:18 AM on May 15, 2006


Sounds like a wildcat of some kind. Did you check for any escapees from local zoos?
posted by zia at 9:28 AM on May 15, 2006


Bobcat? They're in Virginia.
posted by jeanmari at 9:30 AM on May 15, 2006


That isn't a coyote. I have heard many coyote calls and none of them sound like that. They usually sound like screaming children, from a distance.
posted by 517 at 9:30 AM on May 15, 2006


My guess is that it's a fox. I've heard that eerie cry many times from foxes in this area. At dead of night it really is very creepy.

Lots of fox sounds here. The fox territory call is the closest thing to your sound.
posted by essexjan at 9:30 AM on May 15, 2006




I wonder if it was a fisher?

I wasn't familiar with these critters until you mentioned them -- they sound like horrible, horrible creatures for anybody with pets (like me). We're about 50 miles east from their known range, but it's certainly possible. Googling about I found this description of their cry: "a high screech/bark every 15 seconds or so, kind of a trailing off howl at the end"

The description of it as a screech/bark and as being repeated on a pattern certainly fits, but without some audio, it's tough to say.


Did you check for any escapees from local zoos?

Conveniently enough, there are no local zoos. :)


The fox territory call is the closest thing to your sound.

Wow, that call.wav sounds really close. It's a little more dog-like, but assuming there's some reasonable variation in calls, that makes a lot of sense.
posted by waldo at 9:37 AM on May 15, 2006


driveler: "...according to the range map on this page, there shouldn't be any wild mountain lions anywhere near Virginia."

I can say from personal experience that there are cougars throughout the southern Appalacians and the Ozarks, so that range map is a bit lacking.

I recently saw one near my house (in NE Georgia) and during that same timeframe heard calls similar to the one you recorded, only four or five times longer in duration. I don't know if what I heard were the cat's calls. We also lost a good number of chickens to a large red fox during that same time, and it's entirely possible it was the fox making the calls I heard.

In fact, after hearing the fox sounds on this page (particularly the .ram file of the red fox bark at the bottom of the page), I think you recorded a fox.
posted by ewagoner at 9:38 AM on May 15, 2006


I'm with essexjen on this one. We've had foxes in our neighborhood that sound like that. Usually at 3 or 4 in the morning.
posted by SteveInMaine at 9:42 AM on May 15, 2006


I've heard bobcats in the Virginia woods before. They make a cry like a woman or a child screaming in anguish -- an eerily human-sounding high-pitched wailing. More info on bobcat screams. Your recording didn't sound similar; I think fox or owl is much more likely.
posted by junkbox at 9:42 AM on May 15, 2006


Definitely not a bobcat. Sounds like a type of screech owl to me.
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:45 AM on May 15, 2006


Particularly having heard that RA file (thanks, ewagoner), I agree -- it's got to be a fox. I've heard foxes bark and yip and even play, but never this. Now I can learn all about foxes. :)

Thanks!
posted by waldo at 9:46 AM on May 15, 2006


This is obviously a viral marketing campaign for an upcoming horror movie.

No, in all seriousness, it sounds like peacock screaming to me.
posted by saladin at 9:56 AM on May 15, 2006


I'd say it was a fox. Don't know what kind of foxes you have in the US, but it doesn't sound too disimilar to the UK variety.
posted by popcassady at 10:59 AM on May 15, 2006


No, in all seriousness, it sounds like peacock screaming to me.

I used to have peacocks -- I'd welcome some of those in the yard. :)
posted by waldo at 11:27 AM on May 15, 2006


Yeah, a fox.

Also, why would you need a bigger rifle if there's coyotes around? They're extremely innocuous creatures, and unless you've got pets that you let wander around they're not going to do you any harm. You don't need to go around shooting animals just because they're there, man.
posted by borkingchikapa at 11:42 AM on May 15, 2006


Not rabbits or hippies, so that leaves only foxes.
posted by empyrean at 11:51 AM on May 15, 2006


It's a baby bigfoot.

One a related note, I've heard recording of supposed bigfoot calls. Regardless of what it really was, if I ever heard those sounds I'd never go into the woods again or walk outside in a rural area at night.

But yeah, your recording sounds like some type of cat. I swore I heard the same sound coming from our alley last night.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:02 PM on May 15, 2006


The hairless yeti are migrating again. Once every 2500 years they trek across the frozen laundromat to the eastern seaboard.
posted by UncleHornHead at 1:40 PM on May 15, 2006


I'm scared
posted by Packy_1962 at 3:03 PM on May 15, 2006


They're extremely innocuous creatures, and unless you've got pets that you let wander around they're not going to do you any harm.

Pets? Check. Farm animals? Check.

Hence the rifle.
posted by waldo at 3:20 PM on May 15, 2006


Fox, yeah. I hear that often when I'm in my London flat. They can sound like babies being strangled when they really get going. Not that I know what that sounds like, of course. Uhh...
posted by Decani at 4:20 PM on May 15, 2006


I wonder if it was a fisher?

I also initially thought, "Fishercat." They make a kind of screaming sound in the night that's very similar to this.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:21 PM on May 15, 2006


Frat boy. Chi Phi House. Rugby Road.

In all seriousness, Waldo, there have been bobcats in Central VA. My mom speaks of there being issues with them around Harrisonburg when she was at Madison in the 70s. I don't know if they're still running around out there, however.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 6:43 PM on May 15, 2006


Coyotes won't kill a dog bigger than an ankle biter and they physically CANNOT take down big game. Coyotes teeth are NOT set in their heads like a dog or wolf with deep roots, they are shallow rooted and the roots face forward. If a coyote got a good grip on a large animal all it's teeth would be ripped out. Also their jaws aren't strong enough to rip the skin of a large animal. They can get sheep at the best. Mostly they eat mice and frogs.

99% of all livestock attacks are domestic dogs, mostly herding breeds. I grew up in sheep country, this was a very common occurrence. I've also had horses, goats and cattle in high density coyote country and they do NOT bother large animals. If you're friends dog was larger than about 40lbs it was probably not a coyote that go it. FWIW most people, especially on the East Coast where they're not as common, can't tell a coyote from a dog from a "coydog" crossbred at 20 yards.

They also don't form packs, only family groups which is why shooting them is basically going to bring more. A mature alpha pair can hold a large territory and they are the only coyotes that breed there- you start shooting them and you're going to have immatures carving up smaller territories and breeding more and more pups.
posted by fshgrl at 9:56 PM on May 15, 2006


And good lord. A large caliber rifle for a coyote? Are you trying to blow it in half?
posted by Dunwitty at 11:06 PM on May 15, 2006


In all seriousness, Waldo, there have been bobcats in Central VA.

I have spotted one, just once. Three years ago, north of Charlottesville, between Free Union and Earlysville. It surprised the hell out of me.

Coyotes won't kill a dog bigger than an ankle biter and they physically CANNOT take down big game.

I have a dog that weighs 12 lbs.

A large caliber rifle for a coyote? Are you trying to blow it in half??

I said "larger-caliber." My rifle is a .22. I wouldn't be attempting to tickle it, but actually kill it.
posted by waldo at 6:37 AM on May 16, 2006


Well keep your 12lb dog inside at night if you have coyotes around because, like I said, shooting them will only draw more to your property.
posted by fshgrl at 8:35 PM on May 16, 2006


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