video surfaces of big, cat-like creature
--- Sue Hauptly makes no claims about
her skills as a cinematographer.
"Prepare to see a whole lot of
nothing," she says.
The home video jumps in erratic swings
from sky to grass to trees. The focal
point appears to be a few yellow-brown
lumps in the distance. Then it's back to
the sky, the grass, the trees.
a few tantalizing moments, Hauptly
captures what she intends. One lump in
particular is moving. The shape is an
animal of some sort with its back to the
lens. It appears to groom itself, a hind
leg sticking up and out at an angle.
Later, the animal turns broadside,
striking a particularly feline pose.
And that is all the proof believers will
need: A mountain lion did at least pass
through the neighborhood east of town.
Hauptly picks up the video camera for
the first time March 14. Walking by the
patio doors, she notices not one, but
four animals frolicking in an open area.
Three are smaller versions of a larger
"My first thought was, 'That looks
like a lioness,'" she says.
"But I thought people will think I
must be crazy."
She watches for about 45 minutes.
"They were jumping around and
enjoying the sunshine," she says.
According to her husband, Sue Hauptly
doesn't make excited telephone calls. He
can remember just one in recent memory.
"The only other time she called me
and said, 'You're not going to believe
me. You're going to think I'm crazy,'
was on 9/11," Jim Hauptly says.
He tried to talk her through the video
"The battery was dead, and she had
never run it," Jim says.
"I went out with a still camera
because I knew I was really messing this
up," Sue says.
Jim measures the distance Saturday. The
closest the animals ever got to the
couple's home was about 370 feet. When
Sue first saw the creatures, they were
as much as 500 feet away.
Jim and Sue reason whatever the four
animals were --- and they have no doubt
about the species --- they had to be
large. Or the animals never would have
caught Sue's attention in the first
Having seen the video dozens of times,
hearing the story on more than one
occasion and knowing his wife, Jim is
convinced: Sue saw what it is she
Ron Andrews, furbearer specialist for
the Iowa Department of Natural
Resources, hasn't seen the video or
heard the story, and he doesn't know Sue
Hauptly. Based on the odds and years of
"wild mountain lion chases,"
he doubts the identification is
"I'm very suspect," Andrews
says. "We have not had any reports
of reproduction in the wild."
Though theoretically possible, he finds
the notion of multiple mountain lions
"I am just so hesitant. In my own
mind I just don't think it's
possible," Andrews says. "And
I know that's going to make that lady
very upset. And her family."
Tom Smock started the sensation in
Dunkerton last week after noticing three
paw prints near Crane Creek. Andrews on
Thursday said a photo of the impression
most likely was made by a mountain lion.
Two other neighbors, Jack Lienau and his
15-year-old daughter, believe they saw a
big cat around Christmas. Their sighting
was in the same location as Sue
Smock lives less than a mile away and
has seen the video. He firmly believes
it strengthens the case.
"When I saw that, I said, 'Oh,
wow,'" Smock says.
And that's where the mystery stands. A
hard-core doubting Thomas won't be
swayed. Those who already accept the
possibility continue to believe.
"I've been hoping that I'd see it
again," Sue Hauptly says.
"I've got my binoculars. I've got
my camera. And I know how to run the
video camera. I'm ready now."
Contact Dennis Magee at (319) 291-1451