Email example contributed by Tina P., March 3, 2008:
Subject: Massive Mountain Lion (near parkersburg, wv)
As so often happens with viral images, the photos above — which date from December 2007 and are authentic — have attained urban-legendary status thanks to folks making up stories about them before passing them along.
The true facts are these. The cougar, estimated at 200 to 220 pounds and over 7 feet in length, was run over when it leapt in front of a pickup truck driven by Arizona resident Marshall Rader on Highway 64 between Williams and Valle, Arizona. It was still alive but mortally injured when Rader and his wife got out to examine it, so they dialed 9-1-1 and waited for someone from the Arizona Department of Public Safety to arrive and put it down. The man posing with the carcass is DPS officer Jason Ellico, who dispatched the animal on the scene and later skinned it as a demonstration for local Boy Scouts.
Someone, presumably Mr. or Mrs. Rader, emailed the pictures to friends, who emailed them to their friends, etc., and an urban legend was born. The first fabrication appended to the photos was the claim that the accident had occurred elsewhere in Arizona — between Prescott and Ash Fork, to be exact, roughly 60 miles or so from the true location.
By early March 2008, the story had changed yet again such that the cougar was said to have been killed southeast of Parkersburg, West Virginia between Grantsville and Walker. West Virginia game officials were quick to label the revised message a hoax, noting that the accident had also been falsely reported to have occurred in Arkansas.