Being a police officer is among the most stressful jobs a person can do. So, with that in mind, one police department in the Midwest was probably happy to find itself with reason to laugh recently. Yes, when its officers sat down to watch what were likely the most bizarre pieces of CCTV footage of their careers, they didn’t miss finding the funny side of the situation.
Gardner Police Department is based in Johnson County, Kansas, with Gardner itself proud to be one of the safest cities in the state. According to the city’s official website, moreover, the low crime rate is thanks to the community-minded way in which Gardner is policed.
Naturally, then, Gardner police were on the ball when one intruder was reported in late 2016. Specifically, the department had received reports of a mountain lion in the area, and as a result, an investigation was duly launched. The sightings certainly weren’t unlikely, either, as mountain lions – or cougars, as they are also called – are regularly found across North America.
Unfortunately, though, as human populations have expanded, the animals’ habitats have shrunk in recent years. And, although mountain lion attacks are pretty rare, some areas are known to have populations that sometimes cross paths with humans. For example, in the state of California there have been 12 attacks in the last 30 years. Moreover, three of those have resulted in fatalities.
In Gardner, meanwhile, sightings of the aforementioned mountain lion had mainly been reported around Celebration Park, to the northwest of the city. And since the 83-acre community space is popular with families in particular, there’s little wonder that the reports caused concern.
So, to ensure the safety of all Gardner residents, the police decided that they would get to the bottom of the alleged mountain lion sightings. However, the department would have to first identify the animal before it could make a plan of action. As a result, it came up with an obvious plan: install cameras in the area.
“The Gardner Police Department was contacted recently about concern over the possibility of a mountain lion being in the area of Celebration Park,” law enforcement wrote on Facebook. “In an effort to determine if there was a possibly dangerous animal in the area, we deployed two trail cameras to check for activity in the area.”
And the police were pretty confident that they might catch a glimpse of a wild cat on camera. “It’s not impossible for there to be a mountain lion in this area because there have been reports in the past,” Lieutenant Lee Krout explained to Kansas television station KSHB-TV. All that was left for them to do, then, was sit back and wait.
But when the time came for the police to watch what they had recorded, little did they know that they were in for a treat. Indeed, although there was no sign of the fabled mountain lion, there was plenty of other “wildlife” on display. At first, though, things all seemed pretty normal.
As was perhaps expected, the first signs of life that the camera detected were the standard critters usually found out and about in parks. So no doubt police barely shrugged when a little skunk was spotted making its way across the shot. It may have been furry and had four legs, but a mountain lion it was not.
The next sighting was a touch closer to a cougar – but still not the culprit that police had been looking for. A curious coyote was snapped as it came to check out the mysterious recording device that had been placed in its habitat. With no sign yet of the mountain lion, then, the police continued to watch.
And that’s when things got really weird. In the dead of night, it seemed that Celebration Park was attracting some very strange visitors indeed. They included, for one, a woman out strolling with the help of a walker. And, to make things even creepier, she appeared to be wielding some form of large blade.
Then there was the man who looked like he was wearing a hazmat suit. Plus, to finish off his sinister look, he had donned a gas mask and was carrying a mysterious plastic bag. After seeing the images online, though, one citizen sarcastically questioned whether the man was merely an over-cautious dog owner picking up after his animal.
Next up in the bizarre lineup of Gardner’s nighttime wanderers was a gorilla – or rather someone dressed as a gorilla. Even more hilarious, though, was when the prankster was joined by another person costumed as a great ape. Online, meanwhile, there was plenty of lighthearted speculation about what the pair might have gotten up to during their midnight rendezvous.
By the time the beer-swigging Santa, the terrifying masked man and Bigfoot had all made their appearances, then, the police department had to take to Facebook and admit that it had been pranked. “We are glad to report that over the time [the cameras] were up we did not see a mountain lion,” it announced.
“We were however surprised by some of the images that the cameras did take,” the department added. “We now have another different concern. We are attempting to identify some of the wildlife and activity in these images.” But luckily for the pranksters involved, they had nothing to worry about.
“We would like to sincerely thank the persons responsible as it made our day when we pulled up what we expected to be hundreds of pictures of coyotes, foxes and raccoons,” the police wrote. “Thank you to the citizens who noticed the cameras. Your effort and sense of humor are greatly appreciated.”
And the police weren’t the only ones amused by Gardner’s after-hours antics. The original post about the Celebration Park cameras, for example, received over 6,000 reactions in less than a week. And the police officers involved have also been inundated with positive comments from around the globe.
“Now you will not have to worry about the mountain lion. He left because the wildlife in this place is crazy,” wrote one commenter. Meanwhile, another added, “Just when I lose faith in the human race, they go and do something like this and completely redeem themselves! I’m still laughing and I found this a half-hour ago!”
So while the police expected to find a mountain lion on the loose, what they actually captured was much more special: the bizarre sense of humor of the citizens of Gardner. And although it’s unknown whether the practical jokers have yet taken responsibility for their hilarious prank, no doubt they will be laughing at their efforts for years to come.