Mountain lion sightings are rare in Gardner, Kansas (population: 20,000). And when multiple reports of lion sightings happened, Gardner's police department weren't able to capture any evidence. But they did capture images of even something even more rare: Santa Claus and some strange gorillas.
"We photographed some paw prints that were supposedly from the animal and sent them to Kansas Wildlife and they said, 'no, those are coyote prints,'" Pruetting told me over the phone. "So we put the cameras up just to be extra cautious in case we were wrong."
Gardner police placed a few motion-activated wildlife camera traps in the area for three days and though there were no mountain lion images, police did get a surprise when scrolling through the photos. Along with a skunk, a coyote, and a raccoon, there were photos of a pair of pranksters who had apparently discovered the traps and, over a three day period, returned in an array of different costumes and poses:
Many conservation and wildlife researchers have stories of capturing unexpected humanoid images on their camera traps, from hikers making funny faces to fully nude streakers.
Police officers got a good laugh out of the images, Pruetting said, so they decided to post them on the department's Facebook page. They were even a little impressed with the pranksters' dedication and precision.
"They did a pretty good job of centering themselves and putting themselves in the camera's view, because you can't—it's like a box and I wouldn't have known where to stand," Pruetting said. "We still don't know who it is. The attention has been 100 percent positive but no one has come forward. I mean, how many people have two gorilla costumes?"