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Animal attacks are talk of town

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Stephen Elliott

July 26, 2005

Quad-Cities Online, IL

GENESEO - The story has been the talk of the town in recent weeks -- a

tale of big cats, horses, and large birds.

In Geneseo, it has been discussed by fans between innings at Bollen

Field or downtown at the local bar. The story grows as it's retold -- the

dead emu found in a farmer's tree, a horse mysteriously attacked, and

animals of prey lurking somewhere among us.

"As the story started growing, people were coming to me," said rural

Geneseo resident and emu owner John Puentes. "We must have gotten 25 or

30 phone calls.

"Rumors got widespread. Joggers on the (Hennepin) canal wanted to know

if there was a cat around here. Then the sheriff came out here."

What is known is this: On May 10, the Illinois Department of Natural

Resources investigated a report of a horse attacked on a farm in rural


The farm, near Mr. Puentes' residence northeast of town, had a horse

with wounds on its back. After investigating the incident, DNR officials

concluded it was an unconfirmed animal attack.

"The wounds on the horse were consistent with getting tangled in barbed

wire, but there was no barbed wire in the area," said DNR spokesperson

Gayle Simpson, Springfield. "We investigated the site.

"We looked for everything from hair to broken teeth. We found no

evidence. There had been a heavy rain at the time the attack happened, so it

also meant there were no tracks to look at.

"There was no conclusive evidence to say what kind of animal it was

that attacked (the horse)."

At about the same time as the horse incident, farmer Daryl DeGerengel

was preparing to plant soybeans on a nearby field. As he pulled off a

country road into his field, he saw what "looked like the lower portion

of an emu leg lying in the grass in the gateway.

"Whether it was butchered or a coyote dragged it there, I have no clue.

Really, that's about all I know.

"Maybe someone did see one in a tree. We saw a leg in our field. I

never thought any more about it."

Mr. Puentes said he had calls about an emu on the loose in Geneseo this

spring, but it wasn't one of his. Emus are more than 5 feet tall and

weigh about 100 pounds.

"They have big feet with big nails," Mr. Puentes said. "When you catch

one to be butchered, it's not a fun job. It's seems like someone is

getting hurt or scratched."

Whatever happened to the missing emu is still a mystery in Geneseo. So

is what caused the horse's injuries.

Henry County Sheriff Gib Cady has had calls over the years reporting

cougars in the county.

"There are cougars," Sheriff Cady confirmed. "Coyotes always eat from

the gut. It's very easy to see something killed and eaten by a coyote.

"I don't know about what cougars will chomp on."

From his investigations and talks with conservation experts, Sheriff

Cady said it is unlikely anyone would see such an animal in this area.

"My own personal advice is if you're there, they're not going to be,"

the sheriff said of cougars. "I would worry more about a rabid skunk in

the daytime or sticking my hand in a hole where a coon is sleeping."

Mr. Puentes doesn't have any worries about his emus. He has two collies

that will bark if something is going on.

"Still, I'm a little careful when I go out at night," he said.


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