Why Governor C.F. Bottolfsen decided to jump into the argument is lost to history. He had been a newspaperman before becoming governor, so he probably relished the idea of exercising his word skills, thus:
“When you claim that only 16-foot cougars are found in Idaho you may be referring to the kittens which frolic in their dens until they attain 17 or 18 feet. I have heard of cougars that measured 20 feet from tip-of-the-nose to tip-of-the-tail, and that’s no tall tale, either.”
Uh, yeah, it was. The governor went on.
“Any smaller cougars would have a hard time for survival in our forests. A nine-foot cougar would have only an outside fighting chance against a couple of our giant jackrabbits. Mr. McKinley would not be safe if he went out with anything short of a buffalo gun, because anti-tank gun tests have shown the hide of these sturdy beasts to be as tough as an eight-inch plank.”
Not one to let a good joke lie, C.J. Westcott, president of the Idaho Wildlife Federation, also wrote to Lyons, adding, “It is evident from Mr. McKinley’s letter that he is from California, where the wildlife outside of Hollywood is not much to brag about. George Metz, who lives up Burgdorf way, shot a male cougar which measured 19 feet with its tail curled up.”
Dick d’Easum, who as a Statesman columnist had written plenty of whoppers himself, was at that time working as the Fish and Game information director. He wrote to the sailors to clear up any confusion—he was representing Fish and Game after all—telling them the biggest specimen known to have been killed in Idaho measured “about 10 feet.” And thus ended the tall… tail.