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COUNTY: Sangamon County
NEAREST TOWN: Chatham
NEAREST ROAD: Walnut Street
OBSERVED: We happened to notice a large complete footprint under an apple tree in our backyard measuring about 18". We live at the edge of a subdivision that backs up to a deeply wooded stream that eventually leads to a large man-made lake. Our lot is rather extensive and towards to back we have several varieties of fruit trees including apples, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and pears.
The foot print was found under the most mature and biggest of apple trees with a level muddy area under it amongst a sloping yard that leads to the stream. Coincidentally, the area on the apple tree directly above the print was devoid of apples while the remainder of the tree was more abundant with fruit. We've also noticed in years past that we see fruit growing on all of our trees but by the time it's near maturity it all disappears. We just figured it was raccoons but apparently not.
Our next-door neighbor has a cuddly german-shephard who roams leash-free around his yard but rarely comes into our yard unless accompanied by our neighbor. After we showed the neighbor the footprint, he told us that his dog darted out in the backyard one night then immediately came running back and cowered near his owner for the remainder of the night. Ever since he is leery to roam the yard and has even been sleeping in his owners bed, which he never did before. Our neighbor also reported hearing high-pitched catlike shrieking noises in the last few weeks.
After the discovery of the footprint we discovered a decapitated rabbit. The head was completely torn clean away from the body as if it had been "popped" off. It wasn't shredded or otherwise bloody, just simply guillotined. We've recently learned this could have been a gift from our large-footed visitor as appreciation for munching on our fruit.
ALSO NOTICED: Just one footprint but in a rather muddy area under an apple tree where water pools during rain runoff.
OTHER WITNESSES: No visual sightings other than a footprint but also missing fruit, howling, scared dog, and gifting.
OTHER STORIES: No other recent incidents known in the area.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: The footprint was discovered in mid-afternoon but was presumed to have been left a few days prior.
ENVIRONMENT: Rather suburban backyard that backs up to a deeply wooded stream that leads to a man-made lake.
Follow-up investigation report by BFRO Investigator Stan Courtney:
I visited the site and spoke with the two witnesses.
The area had recently received a lot of rain and there were many areas of bare moist soil in the backyard.
The family has many fruit trees which produce fruit every year. They had always assumed that raccoons were the culprit that took the fruit. They did think it peculiar that the only fruit left was at the very top of the trees.
The witnesses were concerned about the footprint and contacted the Chatham Police Department. A police officer did come to the residence and look at the footprint.
The family has heard strange vocalizations in the past and the neighbor mentioned hearing unusual sounds the night before the footprint was found.
The footprint was eighteen inches long and seven inches wide at the ball of the foot and was found underneath the apple tree.
The large Jonathan apple tree underneath which the footprint was found.
The right foot imprint showing the length of eighteen inches.
The right foot imprint showing the width of seven inches.
About BFRO Investigator Stan Courtney:
Stan Courtney has a special interest in wildlife audio recording. He has attended numerous BFRO Expeditions. See Stan's blog StanCourtney.com for recordings he has collected over the years.
Stan Courtney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org