One particular night I had just finished a grueling paper assignment and decided to go out for a relaxing walk. Having brought a joint with me I decided to walk up the path leading to Beck Hall and wandered out over the grass near the trees in the area behind the LSC and to the right of the Janice Levin building, choosing this remote area in the interest of being able to relax without worrying about a security guard coming upon me. As I walked into a little clearing and sat down to spark it up, my movements apparently surprised some kind of animal that was about 10 feet behind me, completely invisible among the trees and the darkness.
Simultaneously, whatever it was started moving around noisily and let out this sound almost perfectly described by the "snorting/coughing/cawing type noise" you report hearing, although I would additionally describe it as gutteral, almost nauseatingly so. It scared the sh*t out of me. Instinctively I stood up and looked behind me, while at the same time beginning to walk carefully away from the spot. I didn't run because while I was scared, I was equally surprised and confused, because the sound was so completely strange. After the noise stopped whatever it was continued to move about, and I started moving away quicker, watching the spot until I came back upon the path between the LSC & the library (a distance of approx. 50-60 ft), but whatever it was did not follow me and I saw nothing. At the time I rationalized it as a startled deer, and while it certainly did not seem to be a sound a deer would be capable of making, my complete lack of knowledge of deer vocalizations disallows me from thinking otherwise (aside: at the time there were no animals visible in the vicinity save for, as I recall, a small rabbit hopping around on the grass). Nonetheless, the noise sounded more like a snorting, phlegm-throated bear trying to caw (I think this is a good word) like a crow in a panicked fashion. I've never ventured back to that spot and have not heard anything remotely like that since.